NASP Urges Nation's Governors to Reject Legislation that Discriminates Against Transgender Students

By: Kelly Vaillancourt Strobach, NASP Director, Government Relations

HB 1008, a bill in South Dakota that would require that students use the restroom consistent with their assigned biological sex, has thrust the issue of discrimination against transgender children and youth into the national spotlight. Similar policies have been proposed in numerous states and districts across the country, but HB1008 is the first bill to be passed by the state legislature and sent to the Governor for final passage. The policies in these bill are in direct conflict with NASP's position regarding safe schools for all students, including transgender and gender diverse students.

Last week, NASP joined the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American School Counselor Association, the Child Welfare League of America, the National Association of Social Workers, and the National Education Association in this open letter to express our grave concerns and objections to the flurry of bills attacking one of our nation's most vulnerable youth populations. This letter was presented to Governors as they gathered for the winter meeting of the National Governors Association. Collectively, we believe that "All of our nation's children deserve equal protections and treatment in their classrooms; these anti-transgender bills foster discrimination and do harm to students, their families, and their communities...Every student deserves equal access to education, academic success, and a future in which they are empowered to fulfill their true potential, and these laws contravene that fundamental principle, which has long guided our nation's education policy."

The South Dakota Association of School Psychologists has been involved in fighting HB 1008. Kari Oyen, President Elect of SDASP, shares how they have been working to stop this harmful legislation.

SDASP was made aware of HB 1008 during the week of its approval through the house and the senate chambers.  Following discussions among SDASP leadership and in line with our mission and purpose, a decision was made to act against this discriminatory bill.  With the help of resources provided by national experts regarding the research behind successful schools that support transgender youth, we crafted a letter to Governor Daaugard urging him to veto this bill.  As school psychologists, a pillar of our practice is the belief that all children can learn and one of the ways that we ensure that is by providing safe and supportive environments for all students Our goal with our letter was to inform the Governor regarding the research and best practices. We also indicated to him the negative, long-term effects of discrimination and harassment that this bill might bring for transgender youth in our state. We ended our letter by telling our Governor that he has the opportunity to protect some of our most at-risk populations. We note that our organization is small (under 100 members), but our voice and advocacy are so important, particularly when it comes to protecting some of our most vulnerable populations. Maya Angelou said, "Develop enough courage to stand up for yourself and then stand up for someone else."The family of Maya Angelou added, "You do not know who is counting on you to stand." We hope that in some small way our efforts will help make an impact on protecting all students in South Dakota!