Rhode Island introduces new regulations

The Rhode Island Department of Education met yesterday to discuss transgender policies in public schools.

In September 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. 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

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.

--Education Commissioner Ken Wagner

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 Wagner last year and distributed. But some opponents take issue with some of the language of those guidelines.

Critics say the regulations encourage kids to be transgender, and worry the privacy and confidentiality components could exclude parents from biological decisions made about their children.

When you have a transgender girl who feels she's a guy and she starts having access to the locker rooms and the showers, I'm not stereotyping guys but guys at that age-she's really setting herself up for possible sexual abuse.

--Assemblies of God pastor Dave Aucoin

The ACLU estimates there are, on average, one to two students in each public school who identify as transgender in Rhode Island.

As for the proposal, it must go through a review, as well as a public comment period, before it could take effect.

Wagner thinks that'll take about three months.

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