Parental consent added to anti-discrimination proposal

Minor children no longer able to change sexual identity, race without permission
June 12, 2018

A proposed regulation that would have allowed students to identify with a gender or race without parental consent has been changed, and is now available for a new round of public comment.

Under the latest change of the Delaware Department of Education’s 225 Prohibition of Discrimination Regulation, a parent or legal guardian must give permission before their minor child changes their sexual identity, race or any other protected characteristic.

The change comes about six months after a highly charged meeting in which more than 200 people mostly objected to the proposed regulation which would have allowed students to change their race or sexual identity without parental consent.

More than 11,000 people sent comments to Secretary of Education Susan Bunting before she announced changes to the regulation in a June 1 press release.

Alison May, spokeswoman for the DOE, would not say why the changes were made, and would not offer any further comment besides what was included in the press release. She also would not say how many comments were in support of the previous regulation, and how many opposed it. A review of responses showed more than five times as many people were opposed to allowing a child to identify gender or race without parental consent than those who were for it.

“After careful review of that feedback, Bunting made responsive changes,” the release states.

In addition to requiring parental notification and permission before a child can change his or her sexual identity or race, the latest proposal provides a guidance document to assist school districts and charter schools in creating local policies. Specifically, the proposal states, schools are encouraged to work with transgender students and their families to determine how to best provide access to bathrooms and locker rooms.

“This may include providing access to the facility that corresponds to a student's gender identity, access to a private and non-stigmatizing alternate facility such as a single stall restroom, nurse's office or gender neutral facility, access to a private area within a locker room, or a different schedule to change so a student can use a locker room separately from their peers. Such opportunities and accommodations should be open to any student to promote a safe and comfortable environment for everyone,” the proposal states.

In a previous interview, Cape Henlopen Superintendent Robert Fulton said the district reviews situations on a case-by-case basis - a process that was in effect before a 2016 Obama policy allowed transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice, he said.

Fulton would not say how many transgender students attend Cape schools, citing the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. A year later, a transgender student petitioned the student body of Cape High, and she won the right to use the girls’ bathroom.

Murray Archibald, executive director of CAMP Rehoboth, said the organization is against the revised changes.

“It is clear that there are several reasons why we cannot support the proposed revisions it in its present state,” Archibald said. “The proposed revisions require permission from parents before a school will recognize a change in any protected characteristic – outing children from unsupportive homes.”

Archibald said students should be able to participate in sports in a manner consistent with their gender identity, and there should be a model policy to guide schools in shaping their policies.

With the latest changes to the proposed regulation, Bunting has posted a copy on the state's Register of Regulations; comments must be received by the July 6 deadline.

Anyone interested in submitting comments for the record can email or mail letters to Tina Shockley, Department of Education, 401 Federal St., Ste. 2, Dover, DE 19901.