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Legislature introduces student bathroom use policy following Caldwell School Board controversy

A parent standing outside of the Caldwell School Board meeting holds a neon orange sign that reads: "Stop boys in girls locker room! - Stop lying to parents - Stop California-ing our Idaho".
Julie Luchetta
Boise State Public Radio
Parents and opponents of the Caldwell School Board's draft policy outlining best practices for LGBTQ+ students gathered en masse at the monthly board meeting.

The Idaho legislature is responding to a policy proposal around LGBTQ+ students in the Caldwell School District with a bill restricting school bathroom use to align with biological sex.

On Monday night, the Caldwell School Board of Trustees met following a few weeks of controversy and national attention. The proposed state bill was not on the school board agenda but the overwhelming majority of attendees appeared to be there to oppose the school’s previously introduced draft proposal outlining best practices for LGBTQ+ students.

About 200 people gathered outside a few hours before the meeting, hoping to get a spot in the limited-capacity room. Attendees shared hot chocolate and cookies while singing psalms to live music set up by a local church. Many, including children, held signs with anti-trans messaging.

At last month’s board meeting, a discussion of the draft ended early and in chaos when comments from the public got out of hand. This time around, Caldwell Police officers were present, as were 10 private security guards.

Nampa House Representative Brent Crane spoke to the committee on Monday, saying many schools in Idaho were facing confusion over similar policies.

A decal with the stylized words "In a world where you can be anything, Be Yourself," is printed above the mirrors of a bathroom. Two plastic daisies are stuck to the wall next to the quote.
Julie Luchetta
Boise State Public Radio
A message decorating the walls of the bathrooms at the school where Caldwell's School Board meetings take place.

“Because of that, the legislature felt like they needed to provide some clarity and put some parameters around this issue,” he said.

Crane said the bill, introduced to the Senate Education Committee earlier in the day, was expected to go quickly through the legislature.

“Legislation will be passed and provide guidance to districts of how to deal with these complex issues as they move forward,” he added.

The legislative draft says bathrooms and locker rooms in public schools should be segregated solely on the basis of biological sex, with reasonable accommodations given to students who do not want to or cannot use multiple-occupancy spaces.

It also ensures “aggrieved” students can bring a lawsuit against the school.

“Any student who, while accessing a public school restroom, changing facility, or sleeping quarters designated for use by the student's sex, encounters a person of the opposite sex has a private cause of action against the school,” the text reads.

This comes a couple of weeks after Attorney General Raúl Labrador said he would be looking into the Caldwell School Board’s proposed text.

All public comments following Crane’s presentation to the board opposed the school’s draft policy.

Speakers focused on the rights of parents to be notified if their child comes out to staff and the transphobic belief that trans children are a threat to non-trans students who will use bathroom access to sexually assault or expose themselves to others. One commenter called inclusive bathrooms an “abomination,” while many cited their Christian faith as the basis for their opposition.

Studies have shown trans and nonbinary students were the victims of sexual assault at much higher rates than non-LGBTQ+ children and were more likely to be assaulted or harassed at schools that do not have inclusive bathroom and locker room policies.

The board meeting ended peacefully.

Find reporter Julie Luchetta on Twitter @JulieLuchetta.

As the Canyon County reporter, I cover the Latina/o/x communities and agricultural hub of the Treasure Valley. I’m super invested in local journalism and social equity, and very grateful to be working in Idaho.

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