Gov. Dennis Daugaard vetoed a bill restricting access to bathrooms and locker rooms for transgender students, which could have potentially put school districts in a legal quandary.
After passing the House and Senate, House Bill 1008, which would have separated bathrooms, locker rooms and shower rooms in public schools based on the biological sex of a student, met its end at the Governor’s desk.
In a statement, Gov. Daugaard noted the bill “removes the ability of local school districts to determine the most appropriate accommodations for their individual students” and added he believes “local school officials are best positioned to address” these situations.
“Instead of encouraging local solutions, this bill broadly regulates in a manner that invites conflict and litigation, diverting energy and resources from the education of the children of this state,” Gov. Daugaard went on to say in his statement.
The initial version of the bill included a hold harmless clause for schools, which called for the Attorney General’s office to represent a public school district, should it face a lawsuit while complying with the state law, and applied any financial repercussions incurred by the district from the lawsuit to the State of South Dakota, but it was removed at the behest of the A.G.’s office.
In testimony from the bill’s House committee hearing, the state’s attorney general’s said the clause could set precedent with the required legal representation, however, precedent already exists in South Dakota’s codified laws already calling for the A.G.’s office to represent schools at no cost should one be sued for complying with state statute related to use of textbooks.
An offer for pro-bono legal work from two independent organizations was cited, but an attorney from one of the organizations, Matt Sharp, noted during the Senate committee hearing the offer would “not cover damages” a school district would incur from a potential lawsuit.
ASBSD Executive Director Wade Pogany testified during a committee hearing on the bill schools would be more comfortable collaborating with the state on the matter.
An override vote taken by the House following the veto was unsuccessful. ASBSD was monitoring the bill.
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