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Red Clay School Board adopts transgender student protection policy

Delaware Public Media

Tensions flared at a Red Clay School board meeting over a policy regarding Transgender and gender diverse students.

The Red Clay School board narrowly approved a policy providing protections for transgender and gender diverse students in the district.

Board members and district staff, including School District Counselor Brieanna Brown, say much of the policy is already used informally

“These bathroom and locker room policies are already in place for students in some of our schools across the district,” says Brown. “And to the best of my knowledge there have been zero issues.”

The board heard from almost a hundred other members of the public, both supporting and opposing the measure.

Corey Schiller is a parent of Red Clay students, and identifies as transgender.

“These kids aren’t fighting to get into a bathroom, they’re fighting just to exist,” Schiller says. “They’re fighting to be just like everybody else, that is all they want.”

Other parents of transgender students spoke about pulling their children from public school out of fear for their safety, and say this policy would help their children focus on their education.

Opponents had concerns about their children’s safety, arguing students should participate in activities and use restrooms of the gender they were assigned at birth.

Multiple supporters challenged that, and cited a Harvard study showing the opposite is true, that transgender students face higher rates of sexual assault when restricted from using a bathroom consistent with their gender identity.

Board members noted the issues surrounding locker rooms and bathrooms is essentially moot, since the rights of transgender students to use the spaces that conform to their gender identity is already protected under state and federal law.

Members opposed to the policy focused on the issue of parental consent and notification. Members say intentionally excluding parents from a student’s situation involving their gender is excluding the community.

District teachers and staff who spoke in support say involving parents in some situations could lead to abuse or get a student thrown out of their homes if they’re outed to unaccepting parents.

Red Clay’s policy echoes a similar one passed by the Christina School district in January, the first district in the state to codify such protections. That measure passed unanimously and faced very little public comment.

But in Red Clay, members of the public and board members were much more vocal, and ultimately the measure passed 4 to 3.

Roman Battaglia is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.