Rep. Bacon: Keeping federal mandates out of Hoosier bathrooms

Posted by: Hannah Carlock  | Monday, June 13, 2016 9:15 am

Keeping federal mandates out of Hoosier bathrooms

Gender identity and the use of school bathrooms and locker rooms is a major topic of discussion across the nation, from newspaper headlines, to debates in school board meetings and mandates from the federal government.

Recently, President Barack Obama set forth guidelines for how schools across the nation should handle bathroom usage. These guidelines say that schools must now allow students who identify as transgender the option to use the bathroom and locker room that matches their gender identity, not their biological sex. The U.S. Department of Education is threatening to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars Hoosier schools receive in federal funding if they do not comply.

I have researched Indiana law and spoken with local prosecutors on this issue. There is no law in Indiana prohibiting anyone from using the bathroom of their choice. A person can walk into a public bathroom and use it for what a bathroom was intended to be used for and still be a law-abiding citizen. If other actions take place in the bathroom, like indecent exposure or harassment, for example, then the bathroom is not being used for what it was intended for and these actions become a criminal offense.

Schools can put policies in place to keep students safe. This is where I believe those closer to their citizens are best suited to handle local issues. School boards throughout the state are already implementing, on a case-by-case basis, guidelines on behalf of their students. School board leaders, which are elected by local residents, can do what is best for students on an individual basis instead of a one-size fits all mandate from the federal government. Currently, schools across the state are conducting open forums and meetings, encouraging respectful dialogue with parents and community members to ensure that the appropriate decision is made to have a welcoming learning environment for students.

Last month, Indiana Congressman Luke Messer introduced the PUBLIC School Act (Prohibiting the Usurpation of Bathroom Laws through Independent Choice School Act), which would allow schools to make decisions regarding gender identity and the use of school bathrooms and locker rooms, while not losing their federal funds for not complying.

While Messer is working hard for Indiana at the federal level, state lawmakers on the Interim Study Committee on Courts and the Judiciary also will be meeting throughout the summer and fall months to examine civil rights issues related to gender identity and sexual orientation.

So I can better serve you and our community, I encourage you to contact me with your thoughts on this topic and others by calling 317-232-9833 or emailing me h75@iga.in.gov. Stay up-to-date with the work being done at the Statehouse by signing up to receive my email updates at www.in.gov/75.

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Rep. Ron Bacon (R-Chandler) represents portions of Warrick, Pike and Spencer counties.

A high-resolution photo of Bacon can be downloaded by clicking here.