Department of Education meets to discuss transgender policies in schools

Classroom desks (WPRI)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Department of Education discussed transgender policies in schools on Tuesday.

It was in September that Marcela Betancur of the Rhode Island American Civil Liberties Union brought a petition to the State Education Commissioner Ken Wagner asking that all school districts across the state adopt policies to protect transgender students.

“We are excited this is happening,” Betancur said. “The bathroom issue is the thing, so was being able to use correct pronouns, used they were affirmed name, as well as being able to have their transcripts in the name they have.”

Betancur was pleased as Wagner addressed the council on elementary and secondary education Tuesday.

“We would be passing a regulation that would require all districts to have a policy in place in order to guide them and how they implement the existing statutory requirement,” Wagner said at the meeting.

All but nine school districts have policies that help them align with the state’s nondiscrimination statue. The commissioner’s regulations will close that gap, but they would leave it up to each district to draft their own policy.

Some of the model guidelines most districts with policies have followed include reducing stigmatization, fostering a safe and non-discriminatory education environment and supporting healthy communication between educators and parents or guardians.

The policy guidelines were drafted by the Wagner last year and distributed. But some opponents take issue with some of the language of those guidelines.

Family advocate Pastor David Aucoin said the section dealing with gender transition in middle and high school, especially where it says the student and school still will work together to determine to what degree the parents should be involved, makes him uneasy.

“So when you start thinking this could lead to hormone injections this could lead to puberty blockers,” Aucoin said. “So who becomes responsible for the student, who is taking responsibility, the staff, the school staff and that’s a big leap. I really don’t think that but what parents would want that.”