LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Regulation 225 meeting draws bizarre comments, no changes

At Delaware Tech in Dover last evening, anywhere from 250-300 people showed up for a meeting on the highly controversial Regulation 225. Some of what I saw defied explanation. But what I saw this morning could bring the whole thing to a crashing halt!

This blogger got there very late, just as public comment was beginning. From what I’ve read and discussed with some at the meeting, no actual changes were made to the regulation. Discussion ensued around the parental rights aspect but the committee did not take a vote to change any of the wording. It almost seemed like a mea culpa to the masses who opposed the regulation and give them a public hearing.

From the public comments I saw, many of them were filled with a) misinformed people, b) folks looking for their 2 minutes of fame, or c) those bucking for some type of political future. One elderly woman even suggested Common Core and Agenda 21 were to blame for the creation of this regulation. In the middle of this were some very clear facts. One commenter said the myths of assaults in bathrooms and lockers are untrue and nothing has ever happened. Another said boys and girls already play against each other in gym class.

The far-right of Delaware were out in full force last night. They were energized and organized. That was very clear. This is the same crowd that teamed up with many progressives in fighting standardized testing and advocated for opt out. But they were not as vocal on that issue as they are on this one. Which is a shame because that could have made a key difference in that fight for parental rights. I encourage any citizen to truly look into any issue and come up with an informed decision for themselves. It seems like far too many of the folks there were “told” on social media they must attend and fight this. The crowd, mostly made up of those opposed to the regulation, were angry. When public commenters raised their tone, the crowd fed into it with a frenzy.

On the other side, one transgender from Rehoboth said she was upset there were no transgender committee members:

Kathy Brown is a transgender Rehoboth Beach resident. She said trans people haven’t been well represented throughout this process and there’s things about the proposal she doesn’t like. But she says kids are being discriminated against.

“All they want to do is they want to participate,” she said. “They want to participate in school, in sports. They want to participate in afterschool activities, they want to participate in education. And a lot of the bigotry that’s occurring is denying that ability to do that.”

Capital School Board member Ralph Taylor, also a member of the committee, had serious concerns with the parental rights aspect:

“When it comes to usurping parental rights, we have to draw a line somewhere, and that’s what I was interpreting,” he said.

Lisa-Marie Mercaldo, speaking on behalf of La Mar Gunn with the Delaware NAACP, gave this public comment:

“Our state and our schools already have laws and policies for anti-bullying, anti-discrimination, whatever other words you want to call it,” said Ms. Mercaldo of Middletown. “Our kids have protections, and if you have an issue with you school, you go to the principal, you go to the school district. The state should have nothing to do with this.”

Parent Tara Sheldon was met with boos by the audience for this comment:

“The parents who are probably having the biggest problem with this are more than likely the parents who would not respect the children,” she said.

It was a statement many members of the audience did not take kindly too.

At the end of the meeting, I noticed security telling folks from the Delaware Department of Education and the committee they would escort them to their cars.

This is my take on the whole thing: I support parental rights. Period. But I also support anti-discrimination measures designed to protect ANY student, no matter their race, creed, disability, or gender. So I am literally torn in half with this regulation. There are parents out there who would disown their own child before they accepted them as transgender.

That is a fact I don’t think anyone can deny. There is a transgender homeless population created, in large part, by that very reason. I don’t like people using this controversy as a political tool during an election year. There were many Republican state representatives and state senators in attendance. There were no Democratic legislators, from what I could see, at the meeting. I don’t like how many opposed to the regulation drew a bulls-eye around the Delaware State Education Association when they supported the regulation in December. What disgusts me the most is the viciousness some are using to treat these children as if they are an abomination.

To get some facts clear: this is a regulation, not a bill. Regulations are introduced all the time in Delaware. I do strongly encourage all Delaware citizens to take a close look at regulations every month and know what is out there. This is a Secretary-only regulation, meaning the sole approving authority belongs to Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting. I did see her feverishly taking notes during public comment last night. If there are no changes to the draft, she could approve this as early as the next State Board of Education meeting this month.

As for State Rep. Rich Collins’ assertion this came out of nowhere and it was veiled in secrecy, let me clear up a few things. No one in Delaware values transparency more than I do. I saw this committee and their meeting notices on the Delaware Department of Education website in the late summer. I saw their meetings on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar. No, they did not put billboards up and down Route 1, but they did follow open-meeting laws in Delaware. It was not found by accident. What that tells me is most Delaware citizens don’t bother to check different websites to see what is going on in their own state. That is on them. As an education blogger, I stay on top of these things. And I can’t write about everything or attend every meeting. It is impossible. But to play Monday morning quarterback and say “I didn’t know about that touchdown yesterday, that is wrong” is a foolish stunt.

Many of the commenters seemed confused about the 4:30 p.m. deadline today to submit public comment. Eleven thousand public comments were given when Regulation 225 was in the Registrar for Regulations and 8,000 of them were opposed to it. If you want to become involved in education matters, do the research and homework before and during the issues, not after. Yes, it is time-consuming and exhausting at times, but coming at it in the 11th hour is not helping.

Once again, I will ask all these citizens who are so deeply opposed to this regulation, where were you during all the opt out meetings and rallies? Where were you when Race To The Top cemented Common Core into the very foundation of our schools? Where were you during the countless meetings about school report cards and accountability rules? How closely have you looked into student data privacy issues facing our students every single day in our schools? Where is your opposition to corporations taking over public education more and more? Where are you on all the “Pathways” programs designed to gear your child toward a certain career path?

Are you OK with the competency-based education platforms springing up all over the place where your child will be left behind if he/she doesn’t perform a certain way on a flawed standardized test? Because this transgender issue isn’t the monster you are making it out to be. There are much bigger battles you should be using your energy for but you are silent on those issues.

I get it, you don’t want state interference in education. You want your taxpayer dollars to be used wisely. But this is a drop in the bucket compared to what has already happened in our schools. If the goal of this was to distract you from those issues, they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

Kevin Ohlandt

Kevin Ohlandt runs the Exceptional Delaware education blog.

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