California public schools are currently preparing to enforce a law that will allow K-12 transgender students to participate in sex-segregated sports programs and use restroom facilities consistent with their gender identity. However, if a referendum brought forth by a coalition of conservative groups is approved, the law's enactment will be postponed until it qualifies to get on the November 2014 general election ballot.
"We don't know what's going to happen when kids come back from their holiday vacation," said Republican state Sen. Steve Knight, who voted against the law, according to NBC. "Are there going to be 15-year-old girls talking in the bathroom and in walks a boy? What are they going to do? Scream? Run out?"
Bill AB 1266 is set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2014, but since the Privacy for All Students group gathered more than 600,000 opposing signatures last month, which met the 505,000 minimum requirement to possibly get the initiative on the ticket, the state has been given a Jan. 8 deadline to determine if the legislation qualifies for a majority vote, which could suspend the bill just days after its launch.
In order to challenge the law through a ballot measure, each of California's 58 counties will verify that the overall count of signatures is correct, they will then conduct further verification through random sampling to ensure they are legitimate. After that, the state could possibly order a full review of each signature.
The group aims to overturn the bill if it gets on the ballot and is optimistic that most voters will side with them.
"The coalition has conducted polling that shows AB 1266 would be soundly rejected by voters," said the group on their website. "We are busy recruiting volunteers and raising funds to qualify the referendum for the ballot so that voters have the opportunity to debate the issues."
Privacy for All Students has taken a stand to repeal the law because they fear that the bill will violate the privacy rights of students and they argue that the legislation is a "poorly drafted, one-size-fits-all approach that contains no standards, guidelines or rules."
However, California School Board Association General Counsel Keith Bray, says privacy is an issue that has been considered.
"We did strike a balance between the sensitivities associated with gender identity, not only for those students who experience a change in their gender status but the students who would be in the same facilities, in the same classrooms and on the same teams," said Bray, reports NBC.
Supporters of the law argue that it will help reduce bullying and discrimination against transgender students. However, if the legislation is reversed, California already has existing anti-discrimination bylaws that benefit transgender students.
One of them is enforced by the California Interscholastic Federation, which oversees sports, and mandates schools to allow athletes to participate in sports teams that would generally be closed to them because of their biological sex.
AB 1266 is the first of its kind in the nation and was signed into law by California Gov. Jerry Brown in August. The passing of the ground breaking legislation also coincided with a landmark lawsuit decision earlier this year in which the United States Justice and Education departments determined that a Southern California school district violated the rights of a student born as a girl who identified as a boy, in not allowing her to use school facilities, according to her gender preference.
In a similar case, a 6-year-old first grader, who identifies as a female but was born as a boy, won a Colorado civil rights case to use the girls' bathroom at a public elementary school, which transgender advocates hailed as a major victory toward equal rights.