Yesterday, two Wisconsin GOP lawmakers, Rep. Jesse Kremer (, R-Kewaskum), and Sen. Steve Nass, (R-Whitewater), proposed a bill that would require school boards to designate school facilities as being for one gender exclusively, based on a person’s biological sex.
GSAFE’s Sr. Director of Education and Policy, Brian Juchems, made the following statement regarding this bill:
“In the nearly 60 Wisconsin school districts that follow best practices, no incidents have been reported of a non-transgender student being harassed. All this bill does is single out transgender and intersex students for increased scrutiny and harassment, directly jeopardizing their safety.”
This proposed law will immediately impact transgender and intersex individuals: Transgender is an umbrella term to describe people who do not identify with the sex they were assigned at birth. Intersex individuals are people born with physical sex markers (genitals, hormones, gonads or chromosomes) that are neither clearly male nor female.
Data from the 2012 Dane County Youth Risk Assessment shows that transgender youth are 15 times as likely to be bullied and more than twice as likely to be pushed by others compared to their non-transgender peers. This bill will lead to further marginalization of transgender youth.
This misguided and mean-spirited bill uses the same language as sample policy drafted by the national organization Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBT legal organization. Instead of looking outside our state, our legislature should look at the sample policy drafted by the Wisconsin Association of School Boards. WASB has provided guidance for a number of districts on this issue and has created common sense guidelines that ensure the safety, privacy, and dignity of all students without singling out or harassing a population of students.
While this legislation is said to be about safety, the reality is it will make students less safe and will invite further bullying of transgender students. The legislators introducing the bill say it’s about safety, but it’s actually about discrimination. It sets Wisconsin schools – and the state itself- at odds with recently guidance from the U.S. Department of Education around Title IX. Title IX has been clearly defined to prohibit discrimination against transgender students.
Nearly 60 Wisconsin school districts have already modernized their nondiscrimination policies to reflect the growing awareness about the needs of transgender students in our schools. Public schools have the charge of welcoming all students as they come to us, including transgender students. Many schools and educators around the state have successfully navigated the question of how to support transgender students – often in the absence of clear local or state policy. Wisconsin should follow the lead of these schools and districts and our neighbors in Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois to learn what best practice looks like. Again, GSAFE agrees that clear policy and guidance is needed, but what state legislators are proposing is not that. It’s a case of bullies wielding power to further intimidate, marginalize, and threaten a vulnerable group of young people.