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    School Is Open – For All

    By Assemblymember Phil Ting–

    Summer is over, and our kids have returned to school. Unfortunately, our federal Department of Education is turning back the clock. Under Secretary Betsy DeVos, the department has stopped investigating civil rights complaints from transgender students who have been barred from using campus bathrooms that match their gender identity. This reverses an Obama administration policy set in 2016, which determined that this type of exclusion would be considered a form of sex discrimination under Title IX.

    This about-face is just one of this administration’s many indignities. Across the country, transgender students face bias and discrimination every single day. Fellow students, and sometimes even school administrators, stop them from using the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity. Transgender students are often forced to use single-stall restrooms that require long walks across school buildings or campuses, adding to the feeling of being different. Transgender students tell stories about how they are not allowed to stay with other students during overnight trips and are forced to stay in hotel rooms by themselves.

    In rescinding the Obama administration’s nationwide guidance, DeVos remarked that states and local school districts should set these policies. We, in California, couldn’t agree more—when policies are open and inclusive.

    Our state has a long history of establishing education policy that should serve as a model for the rest of the nation. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the defeat of Proposition 6, the Briggs Initiative, which sought to ban openly gay teachers in California. With the proposal significantly leading in the polls in 1978, then-San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk led a groundbreaking campaign that inspired many to come out and talk to friends and neighbors about the harmful measure. These efforts successfully changed hearts and minds, leading to a double-digit defeat that November. Proposition 6 even lost in conservative areas, such as the Central Valley and Orange County.

    Decades later, California continues to lead the way in pushing for progress in our schools. In 2013, my former Assembly colleague from the east side of San Francisco, Tom Ammiano, authored Assembly Bill (AB) 1266, the School Success and Opportunity Act. It allows students to participate in activities or use facilities, such as playing on sports teams or using locker rooms, in line with their gender identity. It’s fitting that Ammiano blazed the trail on this issue, because as one of San Francisco’s first openly gay teachers, he also worked on Supervisor Milk’s pioneering team to beat down Proposition 6.

    I am proud to walk down the same path as an ally in state efforts for equality. In 2016, I authored AB 1732, which eliminated gender designations for all single-occupancy restrooms in publicly accessible places, such as restaurants and stores. It is the most progressive restroom access policy in the country and has made daily life simpler for people across all walks of life. I will continue working with groups like Equality California and the Transgender Law Center to break down barriers and to ensure that all people are treated fairly. Together, we will advance our shared goals and fight injustices at the federal level.

    Phil Ting represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the Westside of San Francisco along with the communities of Broadmoor, Colma and Daly City.