MN House passes education bill with student safety and privacy protection
St. Paul--Today, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed the omnibus Education policy and finance bill, H.F. 844. During the floor debate on the bill, Representative Tim Miller (Prinsburg, 17A) offered part of his Student Safety and Physical Privacy Act (H.F. 1546) as an amendment (the A-43 amendment) to the omnibus bill. The Education omnibus bill passed today, as did Representative Miller's amendment.
Representative Miller's student safety and physical privacy amendment will ensure that all students have the most private and safest accommodations available to them for restrooms, locker rooms, showers, hotel rooms, etc. in public schools. The amendment is a common sense measure requiring public schools to maintain separate intimate facilities for biological boys and biological girls.
The measure also clarifies that schools may accommodate a student who self-identifies as a gender opposite his or her biological sex by permitting access to a private, unisex, faculty or other facility.
Representative Miller spoke on the House floor today about his reasons for bringing forward the Student Physical Privacy Act: "Public schools have a duty to protect the privacy, comfort, and safety of their students. I bring this forward because I am the father of seven children and grandfather of three. This amendment is for all children."
With Minneapolis and St. Paul public schools now operating with transgender policies permitting students to choose their own bathroom facilities based on gender self-identification and the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) passing a "transgender student athlete policy" last year, there is serious concern for the privacy and safety of all Minnesota children. Parents have grown increasingly concerned since last summer when the MSHSL's intent to pass their policy came to light.
The Student Physical Privacy Act has overwhelming legal support. Federal courts continue to affirm students' rights to basic physical privacy based upon biological sex. Just this March, the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania ruled in Johnston v. University of Pittsburgh (2015 WL 1497753 (W.D.Pa.)) that a female student identifying as male wishing to have access to male facilities failed to state a plausible claim of discrimination under the U.S. Constitution or Title IX.
Title IX has been frequently cited by opponents of the Student Safety and Physical Privacy Act as a legal bar to the Act. Significantly, neither Congress nor any court has ever interpreted Title IX as requiring schools to give students access to opposite-sex restrooms and changing areas. Instead, the Obama Administration, in an April 2014 Department of Education "significant guidance document," stated that “Title IX’s sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity." Federal Regulations make clear that Significant Guidance documents have no force of law and are therefore not legally binding.
John Helmberger, CEO of Minnesota Family Council responded to the Minnesota House including the Student Physical Privacy Act in their Education omnibus bill: "We are overwhelmingly grateful to Representative Miller and the Minnesota House for their leadership in protecting students' basic physical privacy and safety rights. Like Representative Miller, I too am a parent and grandparent, so I am very familiar with praying for the safety and protection of my kids when they head out the door each day for school. Of all the things parents have to worry about, the Student Physical Privacy Act ensures that parents won't have to worry about their child encountering someone of the opposite sex when they use the restroom or change for gym at school."
The House Education omnibus bill, including the Student Physical Privacy Act, will now head to the Senate for a vote. The Senate and House Education bills will likely then head to a conference committee prior to final passage.