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Human Rights Watch Details Adverse Effects of Bathroom Laws Against Transgender Students

The Humans Right Watch released yesterday a 23-page report titled "Shut Out: Restrictions on Bathroom and Locker Room Access for Transgender Youth in US Schools” that details the adverse physical and mental effects that being denied access to preferred facilities can have on transgender youth.

The organization interviewed 74 transgender teens attending U.S. schools throughout the country and detailed how many of these students felt unsafe and uncomfortable when being forced to use facilities that do not correspond with their gender identity. For many students, they avoided using facilities during the school day all together, a decision that the report says can have devastating physical consequences.


Negative Mental and Physical Effects from Restricted Facility Access

"Avoiding the bathroom for the duration of the school day can have negative repercussions for students’ physical and mental health,” the report says.

"Research indicates that avoiding bathroom use for extended periods of time is linked to dehydration, urinary tract infections, and kidney problems."

The report also details how schools are failing at providing transgender students with comfortable alternative accommodations. The report recommends schools offer students increased access to alternative facilities without scrutiny if laws banning access to preferred facilities are in place or even in the event that a student prefers access to all-gender restroom option.

"Rather than bar transgender students from accessing bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identities out of concern for student privacy, school administrators should consider steps to increase the level of privacy enjoyed by all students when using these facilities. Many transgender students told Human Rights Watch that they wished their schools would adopt such measures,” the report says.

Recommendations for Legislators and Administrators 

The report makes several direct recommendations to the U.S. Congress, state legislators and state administrators respectively.

To the U.S. Congress, it recommends enacting The Equality Act or "similar legislation to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in education, employment, and public accommodations,” ensuring that transgender students are protected from discrimination on a federal level, something that is currently not on the books and, consequentially, the reason why debate over facility access in schools exists.

To state legislators, it recommends easing any "building regulations that require particular numbers or percentages of gendered bathrooms in public or commercial buildings to permit the designation of all-gender bathrooms” as well as allowing transgender students to use facilities corresponding to their gender identity.

Finally, to school administrators, the report recommends that staff are well trained on accessibility issues as they relate to transgender students to ensure students are not questioned or disciplined over facility use and that efforts are made to maximize all student privacy in school facilities.

Read the full report here.

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Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor


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