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Bill gives students right to sue school district if opposite sex encountered in restroom

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Tina Mulally

Tina Mulally

A bill for the upcoming legislative session gives students the ability to take school districts to court if they “encounter” someone of the opposite sex in a multi-occupancy shower room, changing room or restroom.

District 4 Rep. Fred Deutsch, R-Florence, is the prime sponsor of the bill. Rapid City state legislators — District 33 Rep. Taffy Howard, District 35 Rep. Tina Mulally and District 30 Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller — are three of the nine lawmakers listed as sponsors of HB 1005.

The bill would give students the ability to sue a school district if:

The student encounters a member of the opposite sex in a multi-occupancy shower room, changing room, or restroom located in a public school building that has been designated for exclusive use by members of the student’s sex.

An employee of the district gave the member of the opposite sex express permission to use the shower room, changing room, or restroom.

The use was permitted in accordance with a school district policy.

If a student were to prevail in court, they would be entitled to recover “economic and non-economic damages, together with costs and reasonable attorney's fees,” the bill reads.

The same concept would apply to hotel rooms used during school activities.

If students are required to be provided overnight sleeping accommodations for a school district sponsored or sanctioned event, rooms must be designated for use by members of the same sex.

“If any student is unable or unwilling, for any reason, to use a multi-occupancy room for overnight sleeping accommodations, in accordance with the designation set forth in this section, that student may file, with the school administrator, a request for reasonable accommodation. For purposes of this section, a reasonable accommodation includes assigning the student to a single room for overnight sleeping accommodations,” the bill states. “Nothing in this section precludes the use of a room for overnight accommodations by members of the same immediate family.”

HB 1005 gives a student “private cause of action against a school district (that) expressly permits a student of the opposite sex to utilize, for overnight sleeping accommodations, a room that has been designated for use exclusively by members of the same sex.”

The bill states that any student unable or unwilling to use one of the designated multi-occupancy (spaces) has the option to file a request for a reasonable accommodation, which “includes access to a single-occupancy shower room, changing room, or restroom, but does not include access to a multi-occupancy shower room, changing room, or rest room, which has been designated for the exclusive use of members of the opposite sex.”

Students whose requests for a reasonable accommodation are denied may appeal the decision to the school district’s superintendent, then further appeal that decision to the school board.

When contacted for comment on the proposed legislation, neither Deutsch, Howard, Mulally or Frye-Mueller could be reached. 

The legislative session begins on Jan.11.

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