Over the last three weeks controversy has been bubbling up in the First State over a state Department of Education regulation intended to protect transgender students in schools.
That regulation — 225 — says the following (emphasis added):
A school may request permission from the parent or legal guardian of a minor student before a self-identified gender or race is accepted; provided, however, that prior to requesting the permission from a parent or legal guardian, the school should consult and work closely with the student to assess the degree to which, if any, the parent or legal guardian is aware of the Protected Characteristic and is supportive of the student, and the school shall take into consideration the safety, health and well-being of the student in deciding whether to request permission from the parent or legal guardian.
You read that right — the school “may,” not “will,” request permission from a parent before a student’s decision about which gender and/or race he/she is is accepted by a school and district … and the school will determine just how supportive the parent is of this decision.
According to Delaware Online, Governor John Carney directed the DoE to draft a non-discrimination policy back in July:
“It was written to acknowledge the fact that not all parents are accepting when their children ‘come out’ and tell their parents they are of a different sexual orientation or gender. In some cases, students face physical or emotional abuse.”
Delaware Republicans and conservative groups pounced on the ambiguity regarding parents, and the process by which the regulation has been considered.
Nicole Theis, founder and president of the Delaware Family Policy Council said “If you as a parent are perceived to be ‘unsupportive,’ your child can take on a new identity without your knowledge, permission or consent.
“Policies like Regulation 225 are setting parents up as a ‘non-ally’ and ‘unsupportive,’ discriminatory, even abusive, if they affirm their child’s biological realities and work through it instead of embracing the confusion.”
GOP state representatives said meeting times for public input were inconveniently scheduled and “appear to have been deliberately engineered to thwart public criticism.”
But state Democratic Party Executive Director Jesse Chadderdon said the regulation’s wording is due to legitimate safety concerns for children:
“They’re fearful that they might get kicked out of the house … I don’t think that we can protect a possible good parent at the expense of the harm [a child in a situation with a less understanding parent] could incur.”
Lisa Goodman, president of Equality Delaware, Inc. a group dedicated to LGBT rights, agrees with Chadderdon:
The draft regulation simply says that, in deciding whether to seek permission from a parent or guardian, the school should “take into consideration the safety, health, and well-being of the student.”
This is not an unreasonable step to take. Many parents of trans kids are willing to love and support their children, even if they don’t fully understand them. But it is a sad reality that some transgender students live in households where coming out to a parent may result in physical violence, or may lead to the student becoming homeless.
On Wednesday evening the executive board of the state teachers’ union, the Delaware State Education Association, voted to support the regulation.
In an email obtained by The College Fix, DSEA president Mike Matthews explained the process by which the board made its decision:
Out of respect for our membership, as president I decided to put this issue before our Executive Board for a vote. I wanted to best inform the Board ahead of the vote, so I sent an email to all local presidents around the state with a copy of Regulation 225 asking for them to solicit feedback from their members. More than three dozen members responded to the request for feedback. There was good feedback on both sides of Regulation 225 – for and against. The Board used that feedback as part of the discussion and debate ahead of the vote at its November 29th meeting. …
I wanted democracy to take action on the issue of Regulation 225 and that’s why I presented it as an action item before our Board for a vote on Wednesday night. I wanted our Board to hear the comments from members around the state. I wanted the Board to engage in meaningful, productive, and respectful dialogue. I was humbled to lead the meeting on Wednesday where Board members went above and beyond to ensure the dialogue was all of those things and more.
Based on the comments and debate, the Board voted on Wednesday to support Regulation 225. There were votes for the motion, votes against the motion, and votes to abstain. Because of the vote of support, DSEA will be preparing a statement to submit to the Department of Education ahead of the December 4th deadline.
“It’s also a situation that creates some conflict, if there’s not that kind of relationship within the family, and so you have to think about all the different variations of those family relationships,” he said. “When you’re talking about minor children, parents should be a part of that conversation, that decision-making process.”
As noted in Matthews’ email, the deadline for public input is December 4. State Secretary of Education Susan Bunting ultimately will decide whether Regulation 225 becomes official.
That decision likely will be announced at the December 14 State Board of Education meeting.