A proposal currently under consideration in Delaware would force teachers to out trans youth to their parents if students ask to be affirmed by their gender identity in schools.
Regulation 225 was originally introduced last year at the urging of Delaware Gov. John Carney, who instructed its Department of Education to deliver clear guidelines on nondiscrimination. The initial draft version, put forward in September 2017, allowed students to self-identify their race and gender without prior permission from a parent or legal guardian.
The policy also advised teachers, administrators, and staff members to treat trans children in a manner consistent with their gender identity—whether it’s access to locker rooms and restrooms, use of name and pronoun, or playing on team sports.
But conservatives warned that adopting the policy would infringe on the rights of parents to determine what is best for their children. Terri Hodges, president of the Delaware PTA, told Fox News that she “would be livid if the school allowed my daughter to make such a significant decision” without consulting her family members first.
Meanwhile, the Delaware Family Policy Council falsely warned that the regulation would “allow for boys to play female sports, and male students may access female restrooms, locker rooms, and overnight accommodations.”
“They simply need to ‘identify’ as female to gain access,” the anti-LGBTQ lobby group claimed, citing a widely debunked right-wing myth.
During a 30-day public comment period which ran until December 4, more than 11,000 comments were submitted on Regulation 225. The vast majority of those responses—a reported 8,000—were negative.
The Delaware DOE announced earlier this month that it would be introducing changes to the proposal in response to virulent right-wing backlash. The revised version of Regulation 225 mandates that trans students get authorization from their parents before any changes are made to how schools officially address their gender identity.
Mark Purpura, a board member for Equality Delaware, called the amendments “misguided [and] dangerous,” claiming they “run the risk of emboldening discrimination and violence against LGBTQ students.”
“These changes were crafted without the input or knowledge of the very team that spent months carefully drafting a comprehensive regulation and run counter to federal civil rights laws and the overwhelming consensus of educational and medical experts,” Purpura claimed in a statement provided to INTO.
National civil rights groups have likewise condemned the legislation as encouraging the very thing it was designed to address: widespread discrimination against LGBTQ youth in schools.
“If adopted, Regulation 225 would license discrimination against transgender students, violate federal civil rights laws and undermine the health, safety and dignity of kids who deserve our support,” claimed Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Requiring the forced outing of transgender students as a precondition to protect their rights is discriminatory and cruel.”
The National Center for Trans Equality further pointed out that it would actually make it harder for trans students to integrate fully into their schools.
“The regulation would… create burdensome processes for students to change their name and gender markers on school records, as well as participate equally in extracurricular activities,” the advocacy organization states in a press release. “In many cases, this regulation would make it difficult or even impossible for schools to support transgender students.”
For Delaware native Sarah McBride, the issue is personal.
Now the national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, she helped fight for the passage of a statewide nondiscrimination law in 2013. That legislation outlawed bias in housing and employment on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, passed months after the state passed a bill legalizing marriage equality.
McBride claimed that making Regulation 225 official policy would serve to roll back the work of LGBTQ advocates across the state—and put the lives of trans youth at risk.
“Across Delaware, far too many transgender students wake up in the morning fearful of bullying and discrimination during the school day ahead,” said McBride, who is also a board member of Equality Delaware, in comments provided to INTO. “The current draft of the regulation fails Delaware’s moral and legal obligation to ensure a safe and quality education for all students, including transgender students.
LGBTQ youth in Delaware are “frightened by this regulation,” she added.
In a 2012 survey from the Human Rights Campaign, 60 percent of trans and gender nonconforming youth reported having no support from parents or family members. Meanwhile, a 2015 report from the National Center for Trans Equality found that one in 10 trans youth had been attacked or assaulted by a relative after coming out.
DeShanna Neal, a family organizer for the National Center for Trans Equality, said Regulation 225 “ignores the harsh reality faced by kids around Delaware and around the country.”
“We cannot expect students to thrive when they feel unsafe, unaccepted, or unwanted at school,” Neal said in a statement. “For too many kids, however, that sense of rejection starts at home. While I could never fathom rejecting my transgender daughter because of who she is, there are some parents that will have no difficulty pushing their children away simply because they are transgender.”
“I urge all supporters of transgender equality to tell Governor Carney of Delaware that this regulation will undermine protections for our most vulnerable students,” she continued.
Fortunately for trans youth and their allies, the policy is far from a done deal. The public will have until July 6 to submit comment on the amended version of Regulation 225, and anyone who wishes to sound off on the proposal can mail Tina Shockley at the Department of Education, 401 Federal St., Suite 2, Dover, Delaware 19901 or send an email to DOEregulations.firstname.lastname@example.org.