By Kathy Canavan
Before the Obama administration issued a directive instructing all public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms matching their gender identity this month, at least one school was already doing that.
Top-rated Newark Charter High School allows a transgender student to use both bathrooms and locker rooms that student identifies with. A state Department of Education spokesperson said the state has no record of how many other schools accommodate transgender students.
“We have a transgender student in our high school. We do allow this student to use the restrooms the student identifies with in terms of gender,” School Director Gregory R. Meece said. “It hasn’t caused any problems. We had a few parents ask some questions, and we’ve had some express thoughts on it, but the students are 100 percent accepting. In my 36 years in education, I think the students are much more accepting of differences and more tolerant of each other than they were, say, when I was a student in high school. I’m really proud of the students who see a student as a human being before they see gender or disability or race. It’s a very positive sign, at least in our school.”
The Obama administration directive does not carry the force of law, but the Justice Department and the Department of Education have made clear that its interpretation is that discrimination based on sex extends to gender identification. Title IX, the federal discrimination law that pertains to education, prohibits discrimination based on sex.
Under the directive, schools will be advised providing individual bathrooms for transgender students will not meet the standard unless the school provides individual bathrooms for all students.
Karen Gritton, executive director of the 9-12 Delaware Patriots, a God-centered grass-roots conservative group with 2,300 Delaware members, said she feels sorry for the transgendered children as well as other children who will be using the locker rooms and bathrooms. “I would think that, if my child was transgendered, I would think what they need is their privacy,” Gritton said. “The 9-12 is not about marginalizing any group of people. Unfortunately, I think the Obama administration, with this guideline, has attached themselves to a small activist-group effort and they’ve decided this is some sort of civil rights issues.”
“We’ve been opposed to these kinds of accommodations for a long time,” she said. “It opens the door for folks who are not transgendered at all to stalk children in bathrooms and locker rooms. This really isn’t about the rights of the transgendered person. In all likelihood, transgendered people have been using the rest rooms they’re more comfortable with for many years without anyone knowing they’re doing it.”
Asked about the Delaware Department of Education’s response to the directive, spokeswoman Alison May sent an op-ed Gov. Jack Markell wrote for CNN. “We are in support of the governor’s remarks, and we call on school districts to fully implement anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies that include transgender and gender-nonconforming people,” May e-mailed.
In the op-ed, Markell wrote: “As the governor of a state where transgender people can fully participate in society, including by using facilities in accordance with their gender identities, the only consequences have been that transgender people know Delaware is a safe and welcoming place, and businesses know we foster talent and skills among all our residents. That should be the case for every person, in every state.”
The governor quoted a survey by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality that said more than half of transgender and gender-nonconforming people who were bullied, harassed or assaulted in school because of their gender identity have attempted suicide.
At least 700,000 adults identify as transgender, according to the William Institute at the UCLA School of Law. Delaware is one of 20 states and Washington, D.C., that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.