Public hearing tonight on transgender rights proposal

DOVER — The Department of Education will hold a public hearing tonight on a proposal to protect transgender students.

Regulation 225, created by a team of superintendents, students, parents and others, would allow any student in a public school to go by a preferred name, require schools to accommodate all students in regard to bathroom and locker room use and let students identify themselves as any race and gender, potentially without prior parental approval or knowledge.

The state unveiled the measure, crafted on the orders of Gov. John Carney, in October, resulting in a very mixed reaction. More than 11,000 comments, many of them critical of the proposal, were sent to the Department of Education, leading to the agency announcing it would review the proposal and open it up to comments again.

The team that drafted the change will meet in the Del-One Conference Center at Delaware Technical Community College’s Terry Campus starting at 6 p.m. Attendees can provide public comments from 7:45 to 8:15. Comments can also be submitted in writing or emailed to DOEregulations.comment@doe.k12.de.us.

If the group opts to make major revisions, the new regulation will undergo another 30-day review period before Secretary of Education Susan Bunting issues a final decision on approval.

The regulation states, in part, “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.”

Supporters say the regulation would protect transgender students, but opponents argue it infringes on parental rights.

The Indian River School District Board of Education sent a letter to the Department of Education objecting to the measure, saying it could “open the school district to substantial litigation” and places “the district in direct conflict with students and their parents.”

Rep. Rich Collins, R-Millsboro, has threatened to sue the state if the proposal is adopted, claiming the department has no authority to do so.

The Capital, Milford, Cape Henlopen and Polytech school districts each said they deal with transgender issues on a case-by-case basis. The Caesar Rodney, Smyrna and Lake Forest school districts did not respond to requests for comment in November.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said there is no timeline for when changes would be enacted.

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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