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Impact of Daugaard veto likely minimal

PIERRE -- South Dakota's Legislature has attracted national attention recently, but some area superintendents took little notice Tuesday when the governor vetoed one hot-button issue.

PIERRE - South Dakota's Legislature has attracted national attention recently, but some area superintendents took little notice Tuesday when the governor vetoed one hot-button issue.

House Bill 1008 would have required transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match the sex marked on their birth certificate, and was passed by South Dakota's Republican-controlled Legislature in February. The bill was the first of its kind in the nation. But Gov. Dennis Daugaard vetoed the measure on Tuesday, saying in a written statement it "does not address any pressing issue concerning the school districts of South Dakota."

Daugaard's decision won't have much impact on schools in south-central South Dakota, according to several superintendents in the area.

"I hadn't really given it much thought. We just haven't had the issue, so it really wouldn't have an effect one way or another," said Mitchell Superintendent Joe Graves.

Graves did not say whether any transgender individuals attend the 2,800-student school district, but the issue has not caused problems in the past.

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"If there are (transgender students), we haven't had any come forward and make any requests for accommodation," Graves said.

Terry Eckstaine, superintendent of Ethan School District, said the governor's decision could help the district avoid legal battles in the future if a transgender student felt discriminated against.

"With him vetoing the bill, I guess it's not going to end up being an issue for us," Eckstaine said. "We were afraid at one point if he would have signed the bill, it could have brought some legal issues for school districts with transgender students, if we had had transgender students at our school."

Eckstaine said the district now will not be liable for the costs of any lawsuits that might be brought against the school. He said there are no transgender students in the district.

Other superintendents were instead focused on other bills under consideration. Debbie Johnson, superintendent of Chamberlain's 900-student school district, had no comment about HB 1008, but she went to Pierre with interest in House Bill 1182 - to increase the state sales tax by one-half cent to raise teacher pay - which was approved by the Senate on Tuesday.

Tom Culver, Avon superintendent, said he was also focusing on other legislative issues.

"I guess I'm sympathetic to both sides," Culver said. "It hasn't yet (been a concern for us), so I guess I hadn't put that much thought into it."

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Human Rights Campaign called the bill discriminatory, but supporters said it was designed to protect students' privacy.

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Last week, Daugaard met with a group of transgender individuals who opposed the bill. The governor said he had never met a transgender person before the meeting.

The bill would have required schools to provide "reasonable accommodation" for transgender students, which could include a single-occupancy bathroom or controlled use of a staff restroom.

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