A controversial new law in California gives transgender students more access in public schools. AB 1266 mandates transgender students participate in activities and sports that match their gender identity. It also allows them to use their gender's bathrooms and locker rooms.
An 18-year-old from Tulare helped fight for the passage of the bill after he apparently didn't feel supported by his high school. Now he hopes all students benefit from the work of many activists. Former Tulare Union High School student, Calen Valencia, didn't graduate with his peers in the spring. According to Gay-Straight Alliance, his story is common among transgender students. They can fall behind after being banned from doing activities and sports alongside the gender they prefer.
"A good example of this happens with P.E. class where transgender youth are not allowed to participate as themselves and so they're not given the option to take part in the class and get the credits and graduate," said
Jill Marcellus, Gay-Straight Alliance.
A leader in the movement for change in California schools, Valencia is now getting his diploma at an adult school.
As for school sports, the CIF Central Section Commissioner says they're already set up to include transgender athletes. 16 states, including California, updated their bylaws this year.
"It is a process of times are a changing, no question about it," said Commissioner Jim Critchlow.
He says students can apply to play on the team they choose, but must already be going through a gender reassignment. A panel with a doctor and transgender expert will review individual cases.
"To make sure they are actually a transgender person and not somebody saying, 'Well I feel like I should so I can get into the locker room,' and tomorrow back to the other one," said Critchlow.
Two students in Southern California made requests last year. It hasn't happened yet in the Central Valley.
The law goes into effect at all public schools in January, but transgender students can begin playing school sports immediately.