Let’s bully women and children: that’s the legislative agenda Rep. Fred Deutsch (4-Florence) is bringing to the 2016 Session. The SD Right to Life president has already vowed to bring legislation based on the deceptive and debunked Planned Parenthood videos to wage further war on Planned Parenthood and women’s reproductive rights. Now he tells his fellow Republicans that he plans to continue the Republican Legislature’s harassment of transgender kids with a little absurdity called the Student Privacy Act:
State Representative Fred Deutsch was there and spoke about a couple of bills he would be bringing – first and foremost being the Student Privacy Act. The “SPA” is designed to disallow the opposite sex – according to biology – to be in any state of undress amongst each other, such as in locker rooms and bathrooms. He indicated the bill is designed to protect and shield school districts by setting the guidelines forth in state law [Pat Powers, “Coming up in the 2016 Session: Student Privacy Act, Education, Medicaid Expansion, and the First Legislative Budget,” Dakota War College, 2015.11.22].
Is it progress to see the Republican caucus moving from wanting to look at transgender kids’ genitals to wanting to prevent transgender kids from looking at the genitals of other kids of their sex-identification?
Deutsch’s bill is rooted in the terror the fundy-values crowd peddles (good grief: what is it about Republicans and fear?) over the possibility that transgender students are really tricksters out to ogle our daughters. As with most efforts rooted in fear, Deutsch’s Student Privacy Act is illogical.
Recall what I said last month when the Legislature’s interim committee on bullying the South Dakota High School Activities Association wisely took no action to trump the ability of high schools to govern themselves on transgender issues. We segregate locker rooms to prevent titillation. But some boys get turned on looking at naked boys, and some girls get turned on looking at naked girls.
If titillation is our concern, then we really don’t dare have any shared locker rooms or bathrooms, right? Otherwise, we need to have a monitor at the door asking every student, “What turns you on?” then shunt the hetero boys to one room, the hetero girls to another, the gays and lesbians into separate smaller rooms in opposite-sex pairs, and the bi kids to solitary confinement.
For that matter, can we even let kids sit next to each other in high school? You’ve got Peter Wolf sitting in class fantasizing about Angel’s soft fuzzy sweaters, too magical to touch. Titillation! Begone! Forget shared classrooms; we need to morph the Blue Ribbon proposal into a plan to educate every child safely at home by distance learning, because there’s no danger of seeing anyone naked on a computer!
But maybe our urge for privacy goes beyond titillation. Maybe there is a fundamental right to privacy that says no teacher, no coach, and no school can require any child to undress in front of anyone. When Mr. Tim Gusso required us fifth-grade boys at Washington Elementary to dress for P.E., jock strap and all, and take showers afterward, we dealt with our exposure as just something big kids do. But maybe we were being conditioned to surrender a fundamental liberty. Seriously, if Rep. Deutsch is worried about locker room privacy, he needs to outlaw shared locker rooms and demand that schools remodel their athletic facilities to provide separate dressing rooms, complete with locker and shower, for every athlete. He’ll have to amend his Student Privacy Act to ban shared bathrooms to protect young children from the embarrassment of having to unzip their pants in eyeshot or earshot of others. He’ll have to mandate schools go on a remodeling binge… and heck, there goes our teacher pay increase.
Perhaps we can squeeze some good out of Rep. Deutsch’s proposal. He is acknowledging that student privacy is important. If we embrace the principle of privacy, then we realize we need to leave transgender students alone. We have no business poking around in their pants; instead, we have an obligation to let them exercise their right to access the full spectrum of educational activities provided by their high schools. That includes allowing them to play sports with teammates of their sex, which is something they choose, not legislators.
And holy cow: if privacy matters for students, maybe Rep. Deutsch will realize it matters for women as well. The Student Privacy Act, properly amended to create individual dressing rooms for all students so no one ever sees anyone else naked, could lay the philosophical precedent for declaring that our state cannot strip women psychologically bare with mandatory propaganda sessions in front of hostile “counselors,” extended waiting periods, and other intrusions on their privacy when they seek an abortion.