The state of Delaware has proposed a controversial regulation that would allow students as young as five to choose their own race and gender without parental consent.
Some parents support Regulation 225 and say they are open to a more welcoming climate for their non-binary or transgender children, while others argue the measure will infringe on their parental rights, Fox News reported Tuesday.
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Regulation 225 would require schools to provide their students accessibility to facilities and activities that match up with their gender identities regardless of their gender at birth. That includes bathrooms, locker rooms, team sports, and calling students by their preferred name. The proposal would also allow students to choose their own race.
Several parents are upset with the proposal because it does not require schools to inform parents of their children's decisions; the regulation advises school administrators to delay disclosing information until after they have determined a child's well-being.
A growing number of states have enacted rules to protect transgender students. Delaware's proposal goes further by allowing children to decide their race or gender even if their parents vehemently disagree with their decisions.
"The regulation isn't about keeping a secret, it's about what's in the best interest of the child," said Mark Purpura, president of Equality Delaware. "The reality is there are children living in fear who do not feel comfortable coming out to their parents as gay or transgender."
On the other side, some parents say the proposal is another example of government overreach and they should be allowed to make critical decisions involving their own children.
"I would be livid if the school allowed my daughter to make such a significant decision without me," said Terri Hodges, president of the Delaware PTA and committee member.
Hodges is not opposed to the proposal, but she said that it is not effective to alienate parents of the affected children.
"I want to protect children," she said, "but we can't pick and choose when to engage parents."
The proposal has drawn more than 11,000 public comments in the form of letters, emails, and online submissions, the majority of which are opposed to the regulation.
If the regulation is approved, then it will protect 19 characteristics that expert David Cohen, professor of law at Drexel University, says are not included in the current federal anti-discrimination policy.
"Title IX does not explicitly cover gender," Cohen said. "All it talks about is sex discrimination—and not every court, administrator or administration interprets gender identity as sex."
Delaware Gov. John Carney (D.) last year called on the state's Department of Education to do more to protect students from bullying and discrimination, urging the department to enact a policy, Fox News reported.
[L]ast month at the committee's final public meeting, a crowd of more than 250 people packed the auditorium of Delaware Technical Community College to express their opposition.
Delaware State Rep. Rich Collins, R-Millsboro, said the proposed regulation is onerous, excessive, and confusing. He said the current anti-discrimination policy is concise and efficient, and replacing it with a multi-page regulation is a distraction.
"This is taking our eye off the ball," Collins said. "We have one school that has a 3-percent math proficiency and there are issues educating our kids [across the state]."
But Andrea Rashbaum, a parent of a transgender child, said parents can't expect a child to learn if they don't feel safe.
"We have to take these worries off their plates," Rashbaum said. "Similar to how hungry children can't perform, a child who feels unheard and misunderstood can't focus on reading or math scores."