Bill allowing lawsuits if schools let trans students use locker room showers advances

Arizona Republicans want to give students free license to sue their schools if they were allowed to use a shower facility where a person of the opposite biological sex was present — even if that person is the parent of another student or a minor who needs help showering. 

Their proposal would forbid students from using multioccupancy shower facilities that don’t align with their biological sex, and mandates that schools provide a separate, private shower room for  students who are unwilling to comply with that rule. Students who do share a shower facility with someone of the opposite sex would be empowered to take their schools to court over “psychological, emotional and physical” harm. 



The bill, Senate Bill 1182, aims to prohibit schools from adopting inclusive policies. It is a revised version of a proposal that was vetoed last year that would have gone even further, barring trans and gender nonconforming students from the bathrooms, locker rooms, showers and sleeping quarters on school trips that best match their gender identity.

This year’s version is almost certainly headed for a veto, as Gov. Katie Hobbs has repeatedly promised to reject every anti-LGBTQ proposal that crosses her desk, but Republican lawmakers have forged ahead regardless. A bid to circumvent that veto by sending the proposed law to the ballot later this year failed after one Republican broke away to vote it down

On Wednesday, Republican lawmakers in the Arizona House of Representatives gave preliminary approval to the school shower bill. Originally, it included a provision that exempted a student’s family members or young children of the opposite sex being accompanied by an adult from being the cause of a lawsuit against a school. But a last-minute amendment removed that protection, and Rep. Beverly Pingerelli, R-Peoria, who authored it refused to give an explanation. 

Democrats denounced the measure as discriminatory and nonsensical, pointing out that most students don’t shower at school — and that schools aren’t equipped to offer a separate showering facility. 

“I don’t know any school, with the dismal facility funding that the state provides, that currently has private showers available, or any school that would be able to afford to build private showers,” said Rep. Patricia Contreras, D-Phoenix. 

Tucson Democrat Nancy Gutierrez, who is also a P.E. teacher and has worked as an educator for nearly three decades, added that the limited time between classes prevents many students from using school showers. 

”High school students, from what I have witnessed, do not want to shower in front of strangers and they don’t have time,” she said. 

Rep. Judy Schwiebert, D-Phoenix, said the bill is instead seeking to stoke anti-trans sentiment.

“Clearly, this bill is pointed at a situation that is not a problem in our public schools,” she said. “This is a bill that is manufacturing an issue and a problem where the underlying issue is just to gin up fear about some of the most vulnerable people in our schools and our community.” 

While supporters of the bill have touted it as a necessary protection for cisgender girls, the reality is that transgender students face a greater likelihood of experiencing rape and assault than their classmates, and restrictive school policies only worsen that danger. By contrast, numerous studies have found no evidence that inclusive policies lead to violence from trans people.

But Republican lawmakers on Wednesday were undeterred, using alarming imagery to defend the bill. 

Rep. Rachel Jones, R-Tucson, shared that her eldest daughter was the victim of sexual abuse, and said that being forced to witness a trans girl changing would have been traumatic for her. 

“If there’s even the slightest chance that a male with a male part could go into the locker room where my daughters are getting dressed between P.E., and start to undress in front of them, and show their male parts to my youngest daughter who’s going into middle school next year, I do not even want to take that chance,” she said. 

The bill only addresses shower facilities and does not bar transgender students from using locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity.

Rep. Tim Dunn, a Republican from Yuma, said that while students might not take advantage of the school shower facilities between classes, student athletes who are at school after hours likely do. And, he added, younger and older students would be more likely to be in the same place than during school hours, when groups are separated by age. 

“When you have a 13-year-old or 14-year-old freshman in high school coming to participate in an afterschool volleyball event, and then you have another person that’s 19 or 20 that’s transgender and walking into the same showers cause he’s participating in something else after school, I just think it’s pretty black and white,” Dunn said. “You should be able to have reasonable accommodations for both sides.”

Rep. Laura Terech, D-Scottsdale, pointed out that the concern over trans girls using the same showering facility as cisgender girls after school sport events is largely unfounded, given that Arizona law bars trans girls from joining athletic teams consistent with their gender identity

“It is, unfortunately, already illegal for transgender students to participate in scholastic sports with their peers,” she said. “The only situation where SB1182 might apply is already explicitly illegal. This is just piling on.” 

The bill is awaiting a final vote in the state House of Representatives before being sent back to the Senate to approve its amendment. 

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