The administration of Delaware Gov. John Carney, a Democrat, has reversed a prior policy proposal that would have allowed children to identify as transgender at school without notifying their parents or obtaining their permission.
Delaware education secretary Susan Bunting reversed course after reviewing some 11,000 comments, the majority opposed to the original provision that was termed an “anti-discrimination” policy.
Bunting’s office said the new version of the policy:
- Removes the provision that allowed students to make changes on how they were identified without parental involvement and adds a requirement of parental notification and permission; and
- Substitutes the state’s suggested model policy for a guidance document to assist districts and charters in creating local policies.
The original transgender provision was drafted by a panel consisting of educators, parents, and advocates appointed by Bunting.
In response to the overwhelming number of comments opposed to the original policy, Bunting also changed the purpose of the policy from one that would serve as a model that all school districts in the state would be urged to adopt, to one simply providing “guidance to assist school districts and charter schools in creating an anti-discrimination policy.”
According to the News Journal, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Delaware said in response to the reversal that “students who are transgender will not be treated consistent with their core identity or accommodated in any way unless the school requests permission from a parent or guardian.”
The ACLU added the rule will “sacrifice the interests of some of Delaware’s most vulnerable young people in order to appease adults who do not believe in protecting the civil rights of people who are transgender.”
Another group, however, known as United Opposition to DE Regulation 225, said the reversal is “a victory.”
Jonathan Starkey, Carney’s spokesperson, released a statement about the reversal.
“We understand that there are strong feelings on all sides of this issue,” he said, according to WHYY. “There has been a significant amount of public feedback. Secretary Bunting and her team have carefully considered that feedback, and incorporated it into the updated regulation that was published today.”
“We believe the final product will help local districts craft policies that protect students, and involve families every step of the way in these discussions,” Starkey added.
The new policy states:
A school shall request permission from the parent or legal guardian before accommodating a request by a minor student that the school take action to recognize a change in any Protected Characteristic. Prior to requesting such permission, to safeguard the health, safety and well-being of the student, the school shall discuss with the student the permission process and, based on its discussions with the student, assess the degree to which the parent or legal guardian is aware of the change to the Protected Characteristic. If the student does not permit the school to request permission from the parent or legal guardian, then the request to take action shall not be accepted.
“They have created a policy now that in the end does not protect children,’’ said Andrea Rashbaum, a panel member and mother of a child who claims to be transgender. “The idea behind the policy was to protect children and it was to help children who may not have help in other ways. They may not have the social network, may be bullied in school and may not have parents’ support.”
However, state Rep. Rich Collins, a Republican, said the provision would have made parents’ rights subservient to students’ rights.
“I am cautiously optimistic that they have restored parental rights in education Regulation 225,” Collins said Friday. “Assuming that it is exactly as they said, then certainly it is a good thing that parents have been informed.”
Parent Emily Zinos tweeted, “When one parent speaks up, another parent is emboldened to do the same.”
“On and on it goes until thousands have the courage to say gender identity is a lie that hurts children,” she added. “And that’s when school officials start listening.”
Since the policy is a direct reversal of the previous one, Bunting’s office is allowing another public comment period until July 6.