Delaware school district adds protections for transgender students

Fairfax County Public School buses are lined up at a maintenance facility

School buses are lined up at a maintenance facility in Lorton, Va., Friday, July 24, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Editor’s note: The following contains transphobic language that some readers may find upsetting.

For more than four hours, members of the Red Clay Consolidated School District board heard testimony from parents for and against a policy that would offer new protections for transgender students.

Board Policy 8005 would give transgender and gender-diverse students the right to be addressed by a name and pronoun corresponding with their gender identity if they have consent from their parents or guardians.

For situations where students are separated by gender, like health education classes, transgender students would also be categorized with the group that corresponds to their gender identity. For this, they would not need parental consent.

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They’d also be able to access the restroom that corresponds to the student’s gender identity “consistently asserted at school,” or a single-stall restroom if they felt the need for additional privacy. The same policy would apply to locker rooms.

The board heard from dozens of parents, school leaders, and residents late into the night Wednesday. Dr. Gabriel Koury, a school psychologist and student services coordinator for Red Clay, spoke in favor of the measure.

“The students that I have worked with thrive at school when they are their authentic selves. I also have had students come to me crying when a teacher or parent was not supportive,” Koury said. “With the passing of this policy, we help to ensure that transgender and gender diverse students experience a safe and supportive school environment.”

Julian Harbaugh agreed. As a Red Clay resident who works with CAMP Rehoboth, a group dedicated to creating a positive environment inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities, they spoke in favor of the policy for the protection it will offer trans and gender-nonconforming students.

“In health class, in locker rooms, and in bathrooms, I have been the target of hate from people who don’t understand people like me. When was I offered safety? Who protects kids like me?” Harbaugh said. “This is a first step toward protecting students who are born with bodies which do not fit in the boxes of female and male. Intersex children deserve to go to school and be respected just like other students … We exist and we just want to be treated like other kids.”

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Michelle Rohm questioned how the policy would impact her daughter, who is in fifth grade at a Red Clay school.

“If accommodations need to be made for transgender students, why can’t Red Clay create gender-neutral restrooms and locker rooms for those students. If Red Clay passes this policy, what accommodations will be made for non-transgender students? Will they have access to use restrooms in the nurse’s office or teacher’s facilities?” Rohm said. “If a transgender girl doesn’t want to change or use the same restroom as boy students, then why should my non-transgender daughter have to?”

The policy would also allow transgender students to take part in sports teams correlating with their gender identity.

Adam Brownstein urged the board to vote against the policy, questioning how it would affect athletic teams. “What you will inevitably end up with is males that will try to dominate on female sports teams and use female locker rooms for entirely selfish reasons. Adopting 8005 will jeopardize sports scholarships of female athletes as they are forced to compete against biological males,” he said.

After several hours of debate, the board voted 4-3 in favor of adopting the policy.

Following the vote, someone shouted, “I’d like to see how many students get withdrawn from the school district now.” Another person quickly replied, “Only the bigots. Bye.”

The policy goes into effect immediately.

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