BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Assembly Bill 1266, passed in 2013, has been the point of focus in Kern High School District board meetings recently, especially when it comes to LGBTQ+ students and privacy.
Now, the district is looking at expanding and upgrading locker rooms to provide private changing and show stalls.
“We’re always here to hear public input, and we want to navigate this law and ensure privacy for all of our students, irrespective of background,” said KHSD Board member Jeff Flores.
During the last several board meetings, parents, religious leaders, and students voiced opposition to assembly bill 1266 which allows students to use locker rooms or bathrooms based on gender identity. While these new stalls are meant to provide privacy to all students, there are still many who oppose the bill entirely.
Others in support of the law have called on the board to do more.
“I understand parents' concern with sexual assault within bathrooms," said Josalyn, a transgender student in KHSD. "I can tell you with absolute certainty as a trans person, I’m more concerned with my own body than others.”
Flores says it’s been this increase of attention to these issues before the board that has caused them to try to find a solution. That's how the decision to add more upgraded privacy stalls to locker rooms was made.
“Overtime, when [AB 1266] first was passed, students weren’t using the law, but I think every year that goes by, now more students are using that law that allows them to go the locker room of their choice,” Flores said.
The new privacy room options include a semi-private changing area with a curtain, a shower-like area changing stall with a curtain, and full solid partitions and doors.
“Failure to comply can expose the district to lawsuits alleging violation of civil rights the ramifications of these types of lawsuits are broad and extremely damaging," said Michael Zulfa, Associate Superintendent of Business for KHSD, during the December board meeting.
Those who oppose AB 1266 say it’s opening up school locker rooms and bathrooms to the potential for sexual assault.
“I am a biological female and I’m uncomfortable using the girls' bathroom," said one student in the KHSD, who opposes the expanded use of bathrooms and locker rooms in high schools.
Flores says he hopes this expansion of privacy for all students will bring ease of mind to all parties involved, while still complying with state law.
“What we can change and appease are the privacy considerations on bills impacts in the locker room," he said.
The district board is still in the process of finalizing plans, but they expect to begin making changes and upgrading high school locker rooms within the next two months.