All California public schools will be required to provide gender-neutral bathrooms under a law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday.
The legislation expands a decade-old law that requires K-12 schools to allow students to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity.
The bill, which explicitly requires an additional gender-neutral option, was inspired by an attempt by Chino Valley Unified to restrict transgender students’ access to certain bathrooms and sports facilities.
The law is part of a package of bills aiming to protect LGBTQ+ youths and comes amid proliferating culture wars in districts with conservative-controlled school boards, whose focus has become “parental rights” and student gender identity.
“These measures will help protect vulnerable youth, promote acceptance and create more supportive environments in our schools and communities,” Newsom said in a statement, adding that California is proud to have among the “most robust” LGBTQ+ rights laws in the nation.
In 2021, the Chino Valley school board introduced a resolution that would have restricted transgender students’ use of the restrooms and locker rooms of their choice.
State Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond warned the school district then that the resolution was unlawful.
The proposal failed but was cited as the impetus for the bill signed Saturday, which was sponsored by Thurmond and state Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) was author of it.
For the record:
4:44 p.m. Sept. 24, 2023An earlier version of this article referred to state Sen. Josh Newman as Josh Newsom.
“While states across the nation are passing legislation that puts LGBTQ+ people and especially youth at risk, California is sending a clear message today — hate-filled attacks will not be tolerated and we will continue protecting and ensuring the safety of all members of the LGBTQ+ community,” Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang said in a statement, noting “growing attacks from far-right extremists.”
Chino Valley Unified, in San Bernardino County, became the first district this summer to approve a controversial policy that requires schools to notify parents of students’ decisions regarding gender identity, such as the use of preferred pronouns.
Other bills signed by Newsom on Saturday include a new requirement for schools to provide “cultural competency” training regarding LGBTQ+ student issues and the creation of a statewide task force to “identify the needs” of LGBTQ+ pupils.
Newsom’s signing of the bills came one day after he faced backlash from his fellow Democrats — and rare praise from state Republicans — for vetoing a bill that would have required courts to consider a parent’s support of a child’s gender identity in custody fights.
In a veto message, Newsom, considered an LGBTQ+ rights champion, said, “I urge caution when the executive and legislative branches of state government attempt to dictate — in prescriptive terms that single out one characteristic — legal standards for the judicial branch to apply.”
Critics saw the veto, released Friday evening, as proof that liberal Newsom is making more moderate policy decisions to make him more palatable for a future presidential run, ambitions that he has repeatedly denied.