TN Senate Passes Bill Protecting Student, Teacher Rights to Refuse to Share Bathroom With Trans Peers

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Last week, a bill which would protect the rights of student and school staff to refuse to share a bathroom or locker room with biological members of the opposite sex passed the Tennessee state Senate’s upper chamber.

On Wednesday, the measure cleared the Senate 21-7 while a similar bill passed the state House 65-24 on Monday night, the Tennessean reported.

The Senate version is expected to also pass the House where it would next go to Republican Governor Bill Lee’s desk.

The bill allows students, teachers, and school staff to file civil lawsuits if a public school does not provide “reasonable accommodations” with which they would not be forced to share a bathroom or locker room with a transgender student who wished to use facilities that correspond with their gender identity.

Students or staff must submit their requests in writing and undergo a hearing to review their complaint. According to the language of the bill, the Tennessean says, students or staff can sue if they encounter a member of the opposite biological sex in the same facilities if they do so within a year of their original complaint against the school.

One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Rep. Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville, previously told the outlet that the bill would provide “a clear path forward” for public school officials still unclear on how to provide bathroom access for everyone.

Another co-sponsor, Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, explained that the legislation is meant to provide clarity for the many school districts he says have been forced to confront this issue.

“If you don’t think this is an issue our schools are dealing with, you need to talk to your local schools,” he explained on Wednesday.

However, critics argue that the bill would violate federal protections for transgender individuals, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act which the Biden administration interprets to include protections for transgender individuals.

“We are putting our schools in a place where they are going to be violating federal law,” said Democratic state Senator Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, who opposed the bill. “It doesn’t help our schools navigate this situation, and it certainly doesn’t help the students who are targeted.”

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