Editorial: Bathroom bill unnecessary

A proposed Kansas law on student restrooms should never see the light of day.

A Kansas lawmaker’s bill to prevent transgender students from using bathrooms associated with their gender identities is a solution to a nonexistent problem and should be defeated.

Republican state Rep. John Whitmer, of Wichita, introduced the bill Thursday in the House, arguing the measure would protect students, according to a story from the Associated Press. Under the bill, schools could not allow transgender students to use bathrooms or locker rooms associated with the gender opposite of theirs at birth. The policy also would apply to overnight accommodations when student groups travel.

Similar bills were proposed in the House and Senate last session but both died in committee.

Transgender bathroom laws have been attempted in other states, and most have failed. The notable exception is North Carolina, which signed the Public Facilities Privacy and Securities Act into law last year. That law says that in government buildings, an individual must use restrooms and changing facilities corresponding with the gender the individual was assigned on their birth certificate.

The North Carolina law spawned widespread criticism and boycotts of events in North Carolina. Companies such as PayPal and Deutsche Bank halted expansion plans in North Carolina. Estimates are that the reaction to the law cost the state thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in economic activity.

Whitmer told the Topeka Capital-Journal that unlike the North Carolina law or the Kansas bills proposed last year, which addressed all public buildings, his bill is focused solely on K-12 public schools.

“We’re just talking K-12 and all we’re doing is we’re saying, ‘Boys to boys, girls to girls and a reasonable accommodation for anybody who needs it.’ That’s it,” he said.

Critics say such laws unfairly target and embarrass transgender students. Others, including some in Whitmer’s party, argue that transgender bathroom policies should be left to local school districts to decide.

Whitmer said he wants to protect public school students. But what is he protecting them from? Can he cite any instance in Kansas in which the use of a school restroom has created a concern that merited a legislative response?

Kansas faces a severe budget crisis. The last thing the legislature needs to spend serious legislative time on is an unnecessary transgender bathroom law. Whitmer’s bill shouldn’t see the light of day.