Delaware’s policy allows children to choose gender
State officials say the policies of the protection of vulnerable students.
A proposal that allows students in Delaware as young as 5 to choose of their own race and gender-identity – without the approval of their parents – has led to a bitter fight in the First State.
On the one hand, the parents who say they want a more inviting environment for their transgender or non-binary children. On the other hand are parents who say that the proposal is an infringement on their basic parental rights.
In the framework of Regulation 225, schools would be required to provide access to facilities and activities that are consistent with a student’s gender identity, regardless of the sex of the child at birth. That includes bathrooms, locker rooms, team sports, and adhere to the child with the desired name. According to the proposal, students could also choose their own race.
What has rankled some parents is that the new scheme does not require schools to inform parents of the child decision. Instead, it is the policy advises managers to assess the child’s well-being prior to the disclosure of the information to the parents of the child.
While a growing number of states are imposing rules for the protection of transgender students, Delaware’s proposed rules go further – letting a child decide, even if the parent does not agree with the decision.
“The regulation is not about keeping a secret, it’s about what is in the best interest of the child”, says Mark Purpura, president of Equality Delaware. “The reality is that there are children living in fear, and do not feel comfortable coming out to their parents as gay or transgender.”
States that have some protections for sexual harassment and/or bullying of students on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
(Human Rights Campaign)
But some say that this is yet another example of the government escape. They say that parents should be involved in making such an important decision with regard to their children.
“I would be angry if the school allowed my daughter to make such a major decision without me,” said Terri Hodges, president of the Delaware PTA and a member of the committee.
Hodges said that they are not against the regulation but feels that the alienation of the parents is not right is not the right way to carry it out.
“I want to protect children,” she said, “but we can’t choose when to engage parents.”
The state of the proposal drew more than 11,000 comments from the public in the form of letters, e-mails, and online submissions— the majority is against the new rule.
If approved, the regulation would protect 19 characteristics—protection expert David Cohen, professor of law at Drexel University, said, is not represented in the current federal anti-discrimination policy.
“Title ix does not explicitly cover gender,” said Cohen. “All it is about is discrimination on the grounds of gender and not any judge, administrator, administration, and interprets the gender-identity as a sex.”
Governor John Carney’s office, gave the following statement: “This regulation is about the guidance that will help school districts ensure that all children feel safe and comfortable at school. It was prepared by a team of parents, educators, school district leaders, students, and school board members from across the state.”
Delaware’s governor, John Carney, felt strongly that more could be done to protect students from bullying and discrimination, and in 2017 and also urged the DDOE establish a policy.
But last month at the committee’s last public meeting, a crowd of more than 250 people packed into the auditorium of Delaware Technical Community College to express their opposition.
Delaware State Rep. Rich Collins, R-Millsboro, said the proposed regulation is heavy, exaggerated, and confusing. He said that the current anti-discrimination policy is concise and efficient, and replaced by a multi-page regulation is a distraction.
“This is our eye on the ball,” Collins said. “We have a school with a 3-percent of mathematical ability and there are problems with the education of our children [in the country].”
But Andrea Rashbaum, a parent of a transgender child, said parents can not expect a child to learn if they don’t feel safe.
Andrea Rashbaum with her daughter, Maddie and her husband.
“We have this worry off their plates,” Rashbaum said. “Similar to the hungry children can not perform a child, who, unheard and misunderstood can’t focus on reading or math scores.”
Rashbaum is of the opinion that a regulation of the government would have every child on an equal playing field.
“At this time, gender and race identification are handled on a school-by-school,” Rashbaum said. “One school will help a child grow to the dignity and the other less educated school [in the same district] can squash a child’s self-esteem.”
If approved, Delaware would be among the 18 states and the District of Columbia, that have implemented anti-harassment legislation on the basis of gender identification and sexual orientation.
Cohen said Delaware is one of the first countries to draft a proposal to explicitly recognize gender identification in schools as a protected attribute, and offenders – it is unclear whether it would target teachers or administrators could be prosecuted.
After a public hearing period, the Ministry of Education will approve or deny the regulation.
Talia Kirkland is a multimedia reporter based in Philadelphia, Pa.