The Attack On Trans Students’ Rights You Haven’t Heard About
Delaware is set to enact a policy that would restrict the rights of transgender students — unless we act together to stop it.
By DeShanna Neal
Like every parent, I worry about how my teenage daughter is going to be treated at school and in the world at large. Unlike every parent, however, I have to worry about her legal rights as a student, too.
The Delaware Department of Education’s latest version of its nondiscrimination regulation — known as Regulation 225 — is a dangerous policy that can hurt kids like my daughter.
Regulation 225 started out as an effort to protect all students, including transgender children. It was a frequent topic of conversation among other parents of transgender kids in Delaware, and we were proud to support the regulation in its original form.
But then we watched in horror as extremist anti-transgender groups from around the country stormed in and pressured the governor to drastically revise the regulation — warping it from a positive policy to one that offers transgender children few meaningful protections and can even harm them.
In the new regulation, almost all of the positive protections that were in the previous draft have been gutted. And what’s worse, it prohibits schools from doing anything to protect a student from discrimination if the student can’t produce evidence of permission from their parents.
Most parents want to do the right thing and support their transgender child. But for some parents, it takes time to understand what being transgender is like. I know it took some time and lots of conversations with her doctors, counselors, and my daughter herself for me to come around and accept this new development in her life.
But the sad truth is that some parents never come around at all. In some cases, coming out to parents can mean being rejected, abused, or kicked out of the home altogether.
Things are hard enough for kids who have been rejected by their parents. They shouldn’t be punished twice-over for that by taking away their rights at school. No child should be forced to choose between being safe at home and being treated with respect and dignity at school.
For years, schools have found common-sense solutions to make sure that transgender students are safe and supported at school, even if they aren’t fully supported at home. But now this regulation would make it impossible for educators to do anything to support transgender kids who don’t have backing at home, even things as simple as calling them by the right name.
And to make things worse, even if students build up the courage — or even risk their safety — to come out to their parents, this regulation gives them no guarantee that they’ll be treated with respect by their schools. Almost all of the basic protections from the previous version of the regulation — like giving transgender students the same opportunities to participate in school activities as other students, letting them dress according to who they are, and referring to them by the right name in class — have been stripped out or watered down.
This encourages schools to ignore basic principles of fairness and equality. But my daughter’s legal right to a fair education is not mere option. It is a right for my daughter and every transgender child.
This kind of policy doesn’t just run counter to the requirements of the law. It also runs counter to the consensus among education and child health experts, who agree that when transgender children are supported at school, they can reach the same heights and potential as other students.
But when they are not, their grades drop, they are less likely to stay in school or go to college, and their health suffers. And this policy runs counter to the experience of more than a dozen states who have adopted robust nondiscrimination policies for transgender students. None of the myths spread by hate groups came true there. Instead, schools set a strong example of acceptance and inclusion that will stay with their students for the rest of their lives.
In its current form, this regulation ignores that reality. In fact, it permits schools to view the rights of transgender kids as “extra” — In fact, it permits schools to view the rights of transgender kids as “extra” — something they can respect if it suits them with no repercussions if they choose not to. We cannot send our children into a world thinking that that’s how you treat others.”
DeShanna is from Wilmington, Delaware and is a mother of four, trans rights advocate, author,
Most importantly, however, this regulation will give transgender students and their families the message that they are not worthy of the same respect as everyone else. My daughter deserves better than this. Kids all over Delaware deserve better than this.
The Department of Education is accepting comments on this regulation until July 6. I urge all parents to submit a comment and let the Department of Education know you stand with kids like my daughter. Don’t just do it for my child’s rights — do it for all of the children in your life who need to know every one of their classmates is deserving of the same opportunities they deserve.