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The Bathroom Bill and Community Colleges

It’s always been clear that the “bathroom bill,” passed recently by the Texas Senate, applies to public schools, but not to state agencies, such as public universities. But what about community colleges?

According to Ralph K.M. Haurwitz, in the Austin American-Statesman, community colleges fit into the definition of “political subdivisions” covered by the bill.

SB 3 would limit multiple-occupancy restrooms, showers and locker rooms to persons of the same sex as stated on a birth certificate or one of three documents issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety: a driver’s license, personal identification certificate, or license to carry a handgun. It also would prohibit student-athletes from participating in activities for female athletes if their birth certificates say they are male, the article reports. 

From the piece:

When state Sen. Kirk Watson quizzed Sen. Lois Kolkhorst on the Senate floor about the scope of her bill to outlaw certain transgender-friendly bathrooms in Texas, she made it clear that the measure would apply to public schools and local governments but not to universities or state agencies.

Left unsaid: It almost certainly would apply to the state’s 50 community college districts.

“Since it doesn’t explicitly exclude us, our understanding is it would apply to us,” Dustin Meador, director of government relations for the Texas Association of Community Colleges, told the American-Statesman. “It’s just assumed that we are a political subdivision” covered by the bill.

And:

Supporters say the legislation is needed to protect the safety and dignity of women in vulnerable situations. Bruce Leslie, chancellor of the Alamo Colleges District, said it runs counter to the mission of two-year schools.

“Community colleges, by their mission and purpose, are committed to marginalized people, whether they are economically marginalized or otherwise challenged,” said Leslie, who oversees five colleges in the San Antonio area. “We are open to everybody. We very deliberately met with the transgender community several years ago” and worked out an approach to make private restrooms available as needed. “We’ve had no issues.”

One ISD superintendent said a few weeks ago that the bathroom bill was a solution in search of a problem. Local officials already work with transgender individuals to make sure they are comfortable. Also, officials take the necessary steps to insure privacy, according to various media reports.

Another issue mentioned in the AAS article is the possibility that transgender individuals may change their mind about attending a community college, if the bill should pass.

Right now, virtually all reports indicate the bill will face and steep climb in the House, where the leadership, especially Speaker Joe Straus, is opposed to the measure in its current form. Business groups are also opposed, concerned that companies and organizations will want to avoid Texas if the state gets a reputation for intolerance.