Delaware debates rights of transgender students and their parents

Listen 0:00
More than 250 people attended a meeting in Dover on Wednesday night to hear and views about a proposed policy to protect the rights of transgender and other students. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

More than 250 people attended a meeting in Dover on Wednesday night to hear and views about a proposed policy to protect the rights of transgender and other students. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Plans by Gov. John Carney’s administration to adopt a model statewide anti-discrimination policy for Delaware schools is running into serious opposition.

The sticking points revolve around how transgender students — and their parents — are treated.

The proposed policy was drafted over several months by a team of educators, parents, and education advocates appointed by Carney.

The draft policy does not require schools to notify parents if a transgender student wanted to use a different name than at home — if officials felt notifying parents could pose a danger to the child. Once approved, the state hopes districts will adopt it.

Posted online late last year after a series of team meetings, the draft generated 11,000 written comments from the public, many in opposition.

Members of the public sounded off in Dover on Wednesday night when the team met at Delaware Technical and Community College’s Terry Campus.

More than 250 people attended. After nearly two hours of meeting in two groups around tables in front of the large conference room, the members said they had not made a final decision on the model policy but would take many of the concerns expressed by the public into consideration.

Any significant changes to the policy would also be submitted to the public for comment before adoption.

Nearly two dozen audience members addressed the crowd at Delaware Tech, most of them from southern Delaware and opposed to letting transgender students adopt a different identity in school without telling their parents, or of using the bathroom or locker room of their choice.

Many also expressed concern that schools would be “indoctrinating” kindergartners with discussions about sexual identity. One man called it being “brainwashed at a young age.”

“You have not the power to dictate what amounts to the emancipation of our children without the consent of their parent and also without the legal or constitutional authority to do so,” Larry Mayo of Lewes said to applause.

Some audience members, including state Rep. Richard Collins, a Sussex County Republican, also talked about banding together to the sue the state if such a policy is adopted.

The bathroom/locker room issue was addressed by Kerri Fox of Dagsboro.

“All children also have a fundamental right to bodily privacy that at a minimum protects against intimate exposure of their bodies to a person of the opposite sex,” she said.

Kathy Brown, a transgender woman from Rehoboth Beach, said transgender kids “want to participate in school, in sports” and should be able to do so without fear of “bigotry.”

But Jason Hoover of Wilmington, who said his family once took in a transgender classmate who was thrown out of his own home, said he favors any provisions that protects transgender kids.

“A 12-year-old trans girl does not put the community at risk by using the ladies’ room,” Hoover said. “However, forcing her to use the men’s room despite her looking, feeling, acting like a woman compromises her safety and has lasting, damaging impacts.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

50% of WHYY’s funding comes from donations made by people just like you.