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North Dakota gov. signs bill addressing pronoun use, transgender restrooms in schools

House Bill 1552 allows school districts to work with parents and teachers on establishing a separate bathroom for transgender students. The bill also bans school boards from adopting policies regarding a student's preferred pronoun use.

Published: May 8, 2023 11:00pm

(The Center Square) -

North Dakota students must use a bathroom that coincides with their biological sex unless school boards intervene, per a bill signed into law by Gov. Doug Burgum on Monday.

House Bill 1552 allows school districts to work with parents and teachers on establishing a separate bathroom for transgender students. The bill also bans school boards from adopting policies regarding a student's preferred pronoun use.

Burgum vetoed Senate Bill 2231 in March regarding pronoun use in schools.

"Further, the First Amendment already prohibits compelled speech and protects teachers from speaking contrary to their beliefs and courts across the country have upheld these rights," Burgum said in the veto letter. "The teaching profession is challenging enough without the heavy hand of state government forcing teachers to take on the role of pronoun police."

The Senate agreed to override Burgum's veto, but the House did not. The House and Senate agreed to HB1552 in the legislative session's final days.

"After being improved through amendments, House Bill 1522 largely codifies existing practices while reaffirming the First Amendment right to free speech, requiring restroom accommodations, balancing the rights and interests of students, parents and teachers, and not including the concerning language from the previously vetoed and sustained SB 2231," Burgum said in a statement.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota compared the bill to "previous efforts to expel people of color, people with disabilities, and others from communal spaces."

"By signing House Bill 1522, Gov. Burgum is forcing transgender students to make the impossible decision of breaking the law or revealing their private medical information – not to mention the obvious risk of harassment and violence that comes with forcing transgender students into the facilitates that do not match their gender identity," said Cody Schuler, ACLU of North Dakota advocacy manager. "It is quite clear whose privacy and very lives are really at risk now that House Bill 1522 is law."

The ACLU also criticized another part of the law that prohibits public school officials from concealing information about a student's transgender status from their parents.

"Additionally, mandatory outing of a student's trans identity violates their privacy rights at school – particularly for trans youth who cannot be safe at home," Schuler said.

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