Referendum to overturn transgender bill won’t be on ballot

Skye Kinkade

A referendum to overturn a new California law meant to ensure equal rights for transgender students won’t appear on the November ballot because its backers didn’t gather enough voter signatures to qualify the measure, Secretary of State Debra Bowen said last week.

AB 1266, which went into effect on Jan. 1, has been a hot topic in recent months at Siskiyou Union High School District board meetings, where members of the public have requested trustees write letters to the state legislature to protest of the law.

SUHSD Superintendent Mike Matheson said the district hopes to have policies in place by next school year to comply with the law and ensure the rights of all students.

Dunsmuir Joint High School District Superintendent Ray Kellar said AB 1266 isn’t something that has come up at board meetings, other than for informational purposes. He said he understands why some parents would be nervous about the new law, but the district will comply and respond accordingly.

AB 1266 opponents needed at least 504,760 signatures to force a public vote on the statute. They submitted 619,387, but election officers determined that only 487,484 were valid, according to a final count posted on the secretary of state’s website Monday of last week.

AB 1266 has been dubbed by some as the “Co-Ed Bathroom Bill” because it guarantees students in grades K-12 the right to use school restrooms and to participate in sex-segregated activities that correspond with their expressed genders instead of their birth genders.

Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1266 into law last year. If the referendum had made the ballot, the law would have been put on hold until after the election.

Matheson said the district’s policy will be modeled from that of Arcadia High School District. It will comply with a resolution agreement drafted between Arcadia, the Office of Civil Rights and the US Department of Justice in response to a complaint from the family of a young transgendered boy.

During the SUHSD board meeting on Feb. 12, Weed resident Bill Hofer, parent of a Weed High School student, demanded to know how each trustee feels about AB 1266 and whether they support its repeal.

Some trustees said they did have private opinions about the law; most said they were elected to uphold state law.

It was brought up at the meeting that the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors in October passed a resolution supporting the repeal of AB 1266.

Matheson assured opponents of the law that a transgender students’ access to school facilities and programs is a process over time and not something that happens quickly. All implementations of the policies will be done with the support and input of the student’s family.

“The key is flexibility,” said Kellar. If such an instance were to arise at DHS, he said administrators would speak with the transgendered student and their family to address their concerns and needs. Then, they will accommodate the student to the best of their ability.

The bottom line, Kellar said, is the school will work to ensure every student is protected under the new law.