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Delaware Parents Say Their Rights Come Before LGBT-Friendly Schools

Larry Mayo, a grandfather with two relatives who are gay, spoke out against the Delaware Education Department’s Regulation 225 when it was released for public debate last November. The regulation was a bureaucratic move to allow school recognition of children wanting to change their gender without notifying their parents.

"The authority to raise children is not for the state. It's for the parent," said Mayo during an Indian River School District Board of Education meeting.

In the face of a firestorm of protest — more than 11,000 people filed objections with the Department of Education and the Indian River School District’s board of education voted unanimously to oppose the original version — Regulation 225 has been rewritten to put parents back at the top of the decision-making process. However, the updated version of the regulation still instructs school districts to make sure kids who decide their birth gender is no longer a good fit can use the locker rooms and bathrooms of their choice.

“Transgender youth deserve equal protection under the law. They don't deserve special protection,” Mayo added. “I got harassed because I was 5 feet, 3 inches in the ninth grade. I dealt with it."

Like Mayo, Linda Schroeder told the Indian River Board of Education her disagreement with Regulation 225 didn’t come from a dislike or fear of transgender people.

“We are not against a community or a person for their choice that they make,” Schroeder said. “The Department of Education wants to take our rights away as a parent – not knowing these things that are detrimental to our children – and give the authority to somebody else to decide what is best of your child.”

Although the debate over the new version of the proposal continues — the public comment period on the change ended July 6 — Mayo, Schroeder, and those who agree with them don’t have to worry about parents not being notified that little Tommy is now little Susie at school.

Also, Republican state Rep. Debbie Hudson wants to make sure parental rights are guaranteed in the Delaware Constitution, and such a regulation never surfaces again.

Backers of the old version of Regulation 225 are calling the decision to back away from the original proposal a terrible defeat for LGBT rights.

Andrea Rashbaum, who has a transgender stepdaughter and served on the committee that wrote the now-trashed version of Regulation 225, said it was needed if only to make sure all children who switched gender identity were treated the same at all of Delaware’s public schools.

“It’s the luck of the draw with the teachers you get, the school you get, with the administrations you get. There are some schools that are safe havens, but it’s just because they happen to have the right administration or the right staff or the right school culture,” said Rashbaum.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware called on its members to oppose the revision.

Kathleen MacRae, executive director of the ACLU of Delaware, issued a statement in which she described the new version of R 225 as “a rule that will sacrifice the interests of some of Delaware’s most vulnerable young people in order to appease adults who do not believe in protecting the civil rights of people who are transgender.”

“Transgender students are already at risk of violence in schools and family rejection. This proposed regulation increases the odds that both of these negative impacts will harm more Delaware youth,” MacRae said.

But the group, United Opposition to DE Regulation 225, wrote on its Facebook page that opposition to the regulation had nothing to do with fear of transgender people or homophobia.

“This is not an anti-LGBT group strictly concerned parents and community members throughout the State of Delaware that believe parental decisions should stay with parents!” the group stated on its Facebook page.

Rep. Hudson wants to stop any future debate over the issue of parental rights and control before it can get started in state government bureaucracy. She has introduced legislation that would write parental rights into the Delaware Constitution.

Hudson said both the Delaware and federal governments had been chipping away at parental authority for a long time. Hudson said it was time to “act to counterbalance that encroachment.”

So, House Bill 448, Hudson said in a statement on her Facebook page, would “add a new provision to the state constitution affirming that parents have a fundamental right to the ‘care, custody and control of their child.’”

She pointed out the government would still be able to make laws and regulations that affected children and their parents. But the legal standards to do that would be raised much higher by her proposed constitutional amendment.

A co-sponsor of HB 448, state Rep. Charles Postles (R), said in addition to what he agreed was a longtime erosion of parental rights, the bill was also inspired by the first version of Regulation 225.

“Rule 225 crystalized the need for parental rights protections in our code” Postles said. “The state should not be able to usurp parental rights just because a few officials believe they know what’s best for your children. Rule 225 was initiated by just one person when Governor Carney issued a memo directing the secretary of education to create it.”