A bill restricting access to bathrooms and locker rooms for transgender students, potentially putting school districts in a legal quandary, took another step towards becoming law.
House Bill 1008, which separates bathrooms, locker rooms and shower rooms in public schools based on the biological sex of a student, passed the Senate Education committee on a vote of 4-2. ASBSD is monitoring the bill.
“Nobody can guess what will happen if this (bill) gets passed into law,” Rep. Fred Deutsch, the bill’s sponsor, said. Rep. Deutsch noted the initial version of the bill included a hold harmless clause for schools, which was amended out, that he didn’t believe to be “unreasonable.”
“It’s (HB 1008) likely to be costly to our school districts and our state,” Rep. Bernie Hunhoff, a member of the committee, said.
In testimony from the bill’s House committee hearing, the state’s attorney general’s office cited opposition to the hold harmless section because it could set precedent in having the A.G. represent a public school district in a lawsuit despite there being a current statute in South Dakota’s codified laws that cites the attorney general would represent a school district at no cost should it be sued for complying with state statute related to use of textbooks.
During the Senate committee hearing, an offer for pro-bono legal work from two independent organizations was cited, but an attorney from one of the organizations, Matt Sharp, noted the offer would “not cover damages” a school district would incur from a potential lawsuit.
“That’s going to fall on the shoulders of the school district,” Roger Tellinghuisen, opponent of the bill and former S.D. Attorney General, said.
In previous committee hearing testimony, ASBSD Executive Director Wade Pogany expressed gratitude for the pro-bono offer from the organizations, but said schools would be more comfortable collaborating with the state on the matter.
“The offer of pro-bono representation is generous, but it’s not binding,” Tellinghuisen said. “There’s nothing that binds them to step in.”
Prior to the committee vote, Chair Sen. Deb Soholt hinted that the bill would “come back” through a smoke out process, had it not passed committee. Instead, HB 1008 moves to the Senate floor for a single debate. For updates, check out the ASBSD Blog, Twitter feed and Bill Tracker page.