As I detailed previously, I grew up in Kansas. Until 2015 when I moved to Kansas City, Missouri, I lived my whole life in that state. I was born there. I graduated from Buhler High School in 2006. Recently, I received the invitation to my graduating class' 10-year reunion, which I may not attend now due to the $2500 target painted on my back as a trans* woman, just for hypothetically needing to use the bathroom during a tour of my alma mater.
Interestingly, the Buhler High School handbook still contains a nondiscrimination section which specifically underlines its adherence to Title IX regarding sex discrimination.
Buhler USD 313 does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, handicap/ disability, or age as to treatment of students in programs and as to employment.
The recently-passed legislation also requires students who require "additional accommodations" (ex: trans women needing a locker room to change before gym class, etc) to submit a request to the school in writing for the administration to provide adequate, appropriate accommodations.
Kansas HB 2737/ SB 513 "The Student Physical Privacy Act" requires, however, that (bolding mine):
Sec. 6. (a) Students who access a public school or postsecondary educational institution restroom, locker room or shower room designated for use by such student's sex have a right not to encounter a person of the opposite sex. (b) Students who, while accessing a public school or postsecondary educational institution student restroom, locker room or shower room designated for use by such student's sex, encounter a person of the opposite sex, have a private cause of action against the school district or postsecondary educational institution, if: (1) The public school or postsecondary educational institution gave such person of the opposite sex permission to use facilities designated for use by such student's sex; or (2) the public school or postsecondary educational institution failed to take reasonable steps to prohibit such person of the opposite sex from using facilities designated for use by such student's sex. (c) A cause of action brought pursuant to this section shall be brought in either the state district court or the federal district court for the jurisdiction where either the student resides at the time such action is filed, or where the public school or postsecondary educational institution is located. (d) No cause of action may be brought pursuant to this section more than four years after a violation of subsection (b) occurred. (e) Students aggrieved under this section may obtain appropriate relief, which shall include: (1) Statutory damages in an amount of $2,500 for each instance in which the aggrieved student encountered a person of the opposite sex while accessing a public school or postsecondary educational institution student restroom, locker room or shower room designated for use by the aggrieved student's sex; (2) monetary damages for all psychological, emotional and physical harm suffered as a result of a violation of this section; (3) reasonable attorney fees and costs; and (4) such other relief as the court deems appropriate.
To summarize, during my reunion at the school, if I need to use the restroom and a student happens to encounter me there, even just momentarily, in passing, or even if the student does not actually use the bathroom at the same time I do, I am threatened with legal, punitive damages (even potentially those awarded by the court in excess, as they "deem appropriate") for simply exercising my constitutional right to bodily integrity. Instead of being allowed to use the restrooms which correspond to my gender identity, a right provided to me through the equal protection clause, and Title IX, as clarified by the federal government, I had to write my old principle, superintendent, the board, etc, for guidance as to what they would advise. So I did:
To Principal Ellegood, Superintendent Berblinger, and the members of the USD 313 Board of Education:
My name is Jordan Hanson, graduate of the 2006 class from Buhler High School. I was avidly involved in foreign languages with Marilyn Bolton, debate with Richard Young, and choir (including the Buhler Singers) with Bill Korinek. I competed on the track team, and I attended Buhler schools for the entirety of my K-12 education. I couldn’t be happier with the education I received from all of my adored teachers along the way, including the inspiration they provided me to pursue advanced placement courses and further my education beneath their tutelage.
Recently, I received the invitation from our class president, Becky Walenz (formerly Ronen) via Facebook. Understandably, I am excited to re-visit my high school alma mater, as well as to enjoy the festivities for the Buhler Frolic also happening that day. But there’s a problem, one that may prevent me from visiting the school at all.
You see, since graduating, I’ve also come out as a transgender woman and successfully transitioned to living a happy, constructive life as a direct result of the life-affirming care I have received.
As you may be aware, the Kansas Legislature and Governor Brownback recently passed/signed into law HB 2737/SB 513, titled “the Student Physical Privacy Act.” This bill effectively criminalizes the use of appropriate bathrooms by transgender individuals on school property statewide. This means that as a transgender woman returning to my high school, I am effectively threatened with a punitive $2500 penalty and other legal problems every time I happen to need to use the bathroom during our school tour for the reunion.
I am writing to ask for guidance, as to the positions held by the principle/superintendent/board as a whole, with recommendations for how I should approach this subject and the upcoming reunion. Again, all I want is to be able to visit my old stomping grounds with the understanding that my safety is valued as an alumni of the institution, without malice or ill intent, in the security that I can use a bathroom should the need arise.
This is a ridiculous email to put before all of you — the legislature need not micromanage the use of bathroom space and force me to request accommodations at the school’s/district's discretion on a case-by-case basis — but due to the legislative requirements now imposed by the Kansas government, I am forced to write in advance of what originally promised to be such a happy event. Now, I’m struggling to grasp the idea that I won’t be allowed to see my friends and former teachers because of prejudice demonstrated through legislative intent.
Buhler High School Class of 2006
I will follow-up after I receive a response with (presumably) their recommendations.