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Delaware gender policy would allow students to change identity in schools without parent permission

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A proposed anti-discrimination policy for Delaware schools has both parents and state legislators up in arms.

The First State's proposed gender policy would effectively allow students to change their gender identity in learning institutions at the discretion of educational administrators.

What does this mean?

The policy explicitly provides that educators should consider not consulting or notifying parents of children who wish to change their gender identity, if those parents are not supportive enough of the gender identity change.

According to the proposed regulation:

A school may request permission from the parent or legal guardian of a minor student before a "preferred name" 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.

Gov. John Carney (D-Del.) in July directed the Delaware Department of Education to draft a policy to educate school district staff on how to handle any discrimination within public schools.

The memo, which was presented to Secretary of Education Susan Bunting, directed the Department of Education to develop a policy to "prohibit unlawful discrimination in educational programs and activities for students, on the basis of any legally protected characteristic," to include gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.

House Democrats supported the proposed resolution to create an anti-discrimination task force to draft the policy.

All but two Republicans voted against the proposal.

What are people saying about this?

Rep. Ruth Briggs King (R) told WHYY-FM that she's concerned how this policy could impact impressionable children approaching adolescence.

"If I’m a man dressed as a woman going to the women’s bathroom, that’s not an overriding concern for many people," Briggs King explained. "But to think we’re going to make a requirement to do certain accommodations at a very young age at a time children are approaching adolescence and trying to learn about themselves is pushing it too far, they may not be ready, there’s not been conversations and preparedness for this, and to take the parent out of the equation is a disservice to everyone."

Some Delaware parents have also aired their grievances about the policy in a community group on Facebook.

One member of the Sussex County Facebook community wrote, "I have zero issue with transgender humans. I do have issue with the school district allowing students — minor children — to declare that they are a different sex and have a different name without the approval of the adult that is responsible for them. I have issue with the school discussing this at all with my child. If they need to make accommodations then build gender neutral bathrooms and gym changing rooms. Period."

Another user added, "For anyone uncomfortable changing or using the bathroom with their own gender, a reasonable accommodation is to use a single unisex bathroom. It is unreasonable to force children of one sex to use a locker room or bathroom with a child of another sex to make the one child more comfortable at the expense of everyone else."

Rep. Rich Collins (R) told WXDE-FM, "Specifically, they're trying to add the term 'gender identity' and the effect of that would be to allow any student of any age to change their sex," Collins explained. "In other words, go to the school and say 'I look like a boy, but I'm now a girl and I'm going to change my name,' and the most perverse part is they don't even have to tell the parents meaning if the school says 'Well, should we talk to your parents?' and you say as a student 'No, they might get mad at me' then they're not allowed to even tell the parents."

Briggs King, in a statement to WXDE, said:

"I am hopeful that as many parents and guardians as possible will participate in offering their thoughts and opinions on these proposed regulations. Only one community meeting was held in Sussex County and I imagine more people have questions and concerns about these policy changes than actually were represented at the meeting. Parents are encouraged to make their voices heard. Please participate and send in your comments before December 4th."

Public comments on the proposal can be mailed to: Delaware Department of Education, RE: 225 Prohibition of Discrimination, Townsend Building, 401 Federal Street, Suite 2, Dover, DE 19901.

They can also be emailed to: DOERegulations.comment@doe.k12.de.us.

Carney is expected to make a decision on the proposed measure in January.

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