- Associated Press - Friday, March 25, 2016

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Legislation in Kansas that would restrict how public schools and colleges accommodate transgender students is receiving national attention because other students would be able to collect monetary damages if someone was in what is deemed the wrong bathroom.

Two separate but identical bills before House and Senate committees limit accommodations for transgender students. The measures say group bathrooms, locker rooms and showers must be limited to a single sex, and gender would be defined “by a person’s chromosomes” - so that transgender students would have to use facilities associated with their birth genders.

If transgender students are discovered using group facilities for their identified genders, other students who were present can sue the schools and colleges. The measures allow an award of $2,500 for each incident, along with monetary damages for “all psychological, emotional and physical harm.” Aggrieved students would have four years after an incident to file suit.

“We are referring to them as a $2,500 bounty on the head of every trans student,” said Tom Witt of the advocacy group Equality Kansas. “This puts trans kids in danger.”

Both bills were introduced earlier this month. The Senate bill is assigned to its Education Committee and the House bill to that chamber’s Federal and State Affairs Committee. Neither has scheduled a hearing, and lawmakers are on their annual spring break until April 27.

But the measures are being scrutinized in the wake of North Carolina enacting a new law that bars municipalities from adopting their own anti-discrimination ordinances. North Carolina is requiring public school and university students to use only those bathrooms that match their birth certificates.

Rep. Jan Pauls, chairwoman of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, said last week that Kansas legislators must deal with the issue because privacy is a serious concern for students and parents. She said that even if men coach women’s sports teams, they’re not allowed in their locker rooms.

“We have to give children the same rights of privacy,” she said.

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Online:

Senate bill: http://bit.ly/1Mqrzhg

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Follow John Hanna on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apjdhanna .

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