Bill would prohibit school districts from limiting transgender student access

Rocio Hernandez
Rocio Hernandez
Sen. Fabian Doñate (D-Las Vegas) during a bill hearing for SB496 at the Legislature in Carson City on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

In the wake of a rural school district’s effort to limit transgender student access to locker rooms, bathrooms and sports teams that correspond to their gender identity, Nevada lawmakers are moving to advance a bill that would block school boards from taking that kind of action.

Under an amendment to AB423 proposed by Senator Fabian Doñate (D-Las Vegas) and adopted Monday, the bill would prohibit school boards from putting policies in place that limit students’ access to school facilities or activities based on their race, religious creed, color, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, ancestry, familial status or sex. A violation could result in a fine of no more than $5,000 for each day that the policy is in effect. 

“The discrimination of students to participate in school-based activities or restricting access to facilities is not only shocking, it’s inhumane,” Doñate said in a tweet last Tuesday. “The state has an obligation to protect the civil rights of all students, regardless of their background or identity.”

The bill is expected to go before the full Senate for a vote Thursday. If it's approved and the Assembly concurs with the amendment, it would go to Gov. Joe Lombardo's office for his signature. The Republican governor previously said on the campaign trail that he believes high school students should only compete with and against members of the same biological sex. 

The amendment comes a week after the Douglas County School Board considered adopting a policy that would block transgender students from locker rooms, bathrooms and sports teams that correspond with their gender identity, rather than their sex assigned at birth. 

LGBTQ advocates, parents and teachers of transgender students have said the policy could have a chilling effect on students’ mental health and safety. 

Douglas County School Board President Susan Jansen, who introduced the policy, was not immediately available to comment on the amendment on Wednesday. 

Supporters of the proposed policy have said it would protect female, cisgender students who are not transgender from being harassed, exposed to male genitalia or possibly even raped in bathrooms and locker rooms as well as prevent them for losing sports and scholarship opportunities. 

In a statement Wednesday, the Nevada Republican Party called the amendment “disturbing.” 

“It is disgusting that Democrats are working to roll back the clock on sex-specific protections that were voted into law by Nevadans, while also attempting to hide their actions by exempting themselves from Open Meeting Laws,” the party said in a statement. 

The policy was proposed by Jansen at an April meeting and was seconded by Trustee Katherine Dickerson, who has said the policy has nothing to do with trangender students.  

After the board was warned that the policy as written could potentially violate federal and state protections and put the district at risk for litigation, the board voted to hold off on it until its next meeting in June in order to revise the policy language. 

During the meeting, Jansen said she’s heard the district’s few transgender students already use unisex bathrooms. 

Research on whether transgender girls and women have an unfair advantage over cisgender female athletes whose gender identity corresponds with their sex assigned at birth is inconclusive because of a lack of scientific data.  


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