- Associated Press - Thursday, May 19, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - The Obama administration’s recent directive that students be allowed to use facilities that match their gender identity could be harmful to transgender children, according to Gov. Gary Herbert.

If the directive forces transgender students use a bathroom that’s not private, it could lead to them being bullied, Herbert said Thursday at his monthly news conference on KUED.

“I think it can become counterproductive if we try to pigeonhole people into this one-size-fits-all approach,” Herbert said.

The Republican governor also spoke about his recent call to drop Common Core education standards and a proposed new national monument in the state.

Highlights from the news conference:

TRANSGENDER STUDENTS

The guidance from the Obama administration on accommodating transgender students is not legally binding but schools could lose federal aid if they don’t comply.

“It was wrong for him to weigh in,” Herbert said. “It would be even wronger for him to say ‘We’re going to take away the money.’” Instead, the governor said states, school districts and principals are best positioned to come up with policies that give all students privacy and respect.

“If people are feeling uncomfortable, than we ought to make reasonable accommodations for that,” Herbert said, though he did not detail what policy would be a reasonable accommodation.

Utah lawmakers plan to hold a hearing this summer looking at how the directive impacts schools and transgender students.

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NATIONAL MONUMENT

Herbert said talks with federal officials over land protection in Utah won’t be jeopardized by a resolution state lawmakers passed Wednesday decrying a proposed Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah. American Indian tribes and conservation groups are asking President Barack Obama to protect a 1.9 million-acre area that they say is threatened by damage from off-road vehicles and looting.

Republican officials and local leaders are opposed to the idea, saying the monument protection would close off the area to development and even prevent tribal elders from using the land for cultural reasons. Herbert, who signed the anti-monument resolution Thursday afternoon, said monument protections could cut water rights and road access.

Obama has not said if he’ll designate the monument but Herbert said a conservation area would allow Native Americans more access.

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COMMON CORE

Earlier this month, the governor asked Utah’s school board to repeal the Common Core education standards and instead adopt Utah-specific standards, saying divisiveness over the benchmarks was hurting students. Herbert had spent years defending Utah’s adoption of Common Core but called for a repeal as he faces a tough re-election fight against GOP challenger Jonathan Johnson, who has pushed to drop the standards.

“I’m not a Johnny-come-lately to the issue,” Herbert said, arguing that he asked the attorney general two years ago to review the state’s legal commitments to the standards and a separate review of the benchmarks themselves by a group of educators. “I thought this would resolve the issue, and yet, we find out through this campaign over these last few weeks and months that not only is it not put to bed, but the brush fire has grown even more intense. That’s not healthy for us as a state.”

Utah’s school board is reviewing the issue.


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