State Rep. Rich Collins Is Not Digging Gender Expression Regulations

It looks like State Rep. Rich Collins is taking aim at proposed regulations dealing with gender discrimination according to the weekly newsletter from the Republican Caucus of the Delaware House of Representatives.  I felt the need to redline this because there are some points I agree with and some I don’t.

State Lawmaker Says Proposed Education Regulations Could Violate Parental Rights, Spark Lawsuits
A proposed anti-discrimination policy and regulations that could soon be applied to Delaware public schools are raising questions and concerns.
I’m sorry, but how often does Rep. Collins take an active role on education issues in the General Assembly?  How much education legislation has he put forth?  I think this has more to do with transgender issues than potential legality of the Governor’s actions.  Cause if Collins wants to poke holes at legality in state code, I can think of a few dozen issues that need the spotlight more than this.
“It opens Pandora’s Box,” said State Rep. Rich Collins, R-Millsboro.  “It has the potential to twist schools up in knots.”
A little overdramatic there.
The process began in mid-July with the issuance of a brief memorandum from Gov. John Carney to Sec. of Education Susan Bunting.  In the memo, the governor directed the agency to promulgate regulations providing clear guidance to schools “to prohibit unlawful discrimination in educational programs, and activities for students, on the basis of any legally protected characteristic.”
This is Executive Overreach.  Something Carney does very well.  He has been doing this a lot lately. 
The memo set a deadline of November 1st for the proposed rules to be posted in the Delaware Register of Regulations, a needed step preceding implementation.
If you ask me, any regulation should be based on a bill passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor.  No questions asked. 
Four “community conversations” were held — one in each county, and one in the City of Wilmington — to gather public input.
These community conversations are usually poorly attended.  The results of these meetings are predetermined as usual.
State Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, attended the Sussex County event last week.  She said the meetings – which all took place between 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. over a period of just ten days – were, perhaps intentionally, inconveniently staged for parents to participate.  “They were held when families are collecting students from school activities, having dinner and assisting with homework,” she said.
I like Rep. Briggs King.  But my question would be when is an opportune time?  When parents are at work?  Is after 8pm better when parents are trying to get kids to bed?  I would say sufficient notice and having schools send out robo-calls paid for by the state would work better.  Or hell, have the state send out robo-calls. 
Rep. Collins noted that the forums appeared to have been deliberately engineered to thwart public criticism, with participants broken into small discussion groups, limiting interaction and open debate.
Welcome to DOE 101 Rep. Collins!  This is how they roll.  I’ve been dealing with this kind of nonsense for years.
He added that an online survey form for public feedback on the proposed policy and regulations posed questions that specifically called for participants to provide three things they liked about each but avoided any such pointed solicitation of negative comments.
Once again, we go back to the predetermined thing.  The Delaware DOE will never put “This sucks” as an option!
The draft regulations include “gender identity or expression” among its protected characteristics. 
Among the more controversial aspects of the proposed rules are the following:
  • All students enrolled in a Delaware public school would be able to self-identify gender or race.  (Rule 7.4)

I watch the show Shameless.  In an episode from last year, a character named Carl wanted to get a DNA test to prove he had African-American ancestry so he could get into a military academy.  The white teenager couldn’t get in but the school did have openings for different minorities for 20% of their population.  Even though he did not have any African-American ancestry, he did find out he was 3% Apache so he got in.  Not sure where I’m going with this, but I thought it was kind of funny.  In these episodes dealing with Carl’s situation, another brother named Ian is dating a transgender.  The writers did a great job of conveying some of the issues transgender people go through.  But I digress. 

  • A student would have the opportunity to participate on the sports team that is consistent with the student’s gender identity, regardless of the student’s assigned sex at birth.  (6.4)

I really don’t know how to comment on this one.  I have no issues with gender identity whatsoever.  But calling it “assigned sex”?  Is that a legal term?  I don’t know.

  • A student would have the opportunity to participate in the program of instruction dealing with human sexuality that is consistent with the student’s gender identity, regardless of the student’s assigned sex at birth.  (3.4)

I would think this is appropriate.

  • Regarding physical education programs – goals, objectives and skill development standards could not be designated on the basis of gender.  (5.2)

Why does everything have to be a “standard”?  What happened to the days when kids went to gym to release energy and play basketball or floor hockey? 

  • School districts and charter schools would be required to work with students and families on providing access to locker rooms and bathrooms that correspond to students’ “gender identity or expression.”  (8.1)

What does “work with” mean?  This is a good point.  I’ve seen how schools are “required” to work with parents, but sometimes you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

  • Even if a student does not legally change his or her name, he or she can select a “preferred name” based on a “protected characteristic” that school officials would be obligated to use except on official records.  (7.3)

I don’t mind this.  My son’s name is Jacob.  He likes his name.  He doesn’t like to be called “Jake”.  If he wanted to be called “Bob” in school, I would respect that, as long as he is consistent with it and not changing his “preferred name” every other week.

The proposed regulations direct school districts to establish antidiscrimination policies within 90 days of the rules’ implementation or the start of the next academic year, whichever is earlier.  The policies would be required to contain informal and formal complaint procedures.
A procedure isn’t the same thing as reality.  Just gonna throw that one out there.
“The regulations and policy contain no mention of a student’s age, so I question the wisdom of allowing very young students to make some of these decisions,” Rep. Collins said.  “These proposals also seem to undercut parental authority; giving parents less say in some of these processes then I think is appropriate.”
Then and than mean two different things.  Just saying.  But I kind of agree with Rep. Collin’s point here.  A five-year old making these decisions, without parental consent, could be a slippery slope.  A thirteen-year old, who is more aware of their body and their wants… that could be a different thing.
State Reps. Collins and Briggs King say the proposed regulations are invalid, noting that “gender identity or expression” is not a legally protected classification under the Delaware Code covering public education.
Then perhaps Reps. Collins and Briggs King should write legislation which would put it as a legally protected classification.
Delaware’s Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act of 2013 — which forbids discrimination on the basis of gender identity in housing, employment, public works contracting, public accommodations, and insurance – added new language to seven titles of the state code.  However, those changes were not applied to Title 14, which covers public education.
See above.
“Neither the proposed regulation nor the model policy document, are legitimate because they are not based on any legal authority granted by the General Assembly,” Rep. Collins said.
That’s because Carney wants to circumvent the General Assembly whenever possible.  He is becoming very proficient at that.  But the House Republicans had a Carneypalooza in their newsletter this week with pictures of him all over the place. 
Rep. Briggs King points to language in House Joint Resolution 6 – which is still pending action in the Senate – as further proof.  The measure contains a provision explicitly stating that Delaware’s laws on public education do not “prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression.”
Carney likes to flex his gubernatorial muscle.  If he wanted this so bad, he should have done his posturing on June 30th (and July 1st, July 2nd) and gotten the General Assembly to pass a simple Joint Resolution.
Rep. Collins said there has been a rapid push to implement the anti-discrimination regulations, outside the authority of law and escaping the attention of most parents and elected officials.  He said the new rules would produce confusion and likely create additional disputes and lawsuits.
John is all about the rapid push.  Patience is not his strong suit.  The only authority he seems to recognize is his own authority.
In a recent communication to the Department of Education, Rep. Collins urged the agency to delay action to address the growing concerns about the proposals.
How much you want to bet the response will be as empty as Legislative Hall between July and early January?
I am really torn on this one.  Collins offers up some valid points.  The biggest is that Governor Carney once again operated under the guise of Executive Power to do whatever the hell he wants.  He is the most non-transparent Governor in Delaware history.  He is flaunting this power a lot lately.  Much more than Jack Markell did.  It does not bode well for Carney.  I’m sure the DOE, Rodel, and the Delaware Business Roundtable love it though!
I dig into a great deal of education happenings.  I don’t mind any rights of students being clarified.  But there are some parental no-nos in the below draft of the proposed regulations.  I don’t think any educational setting should determine what is best to tell a parent or NOT tell a parent.  Parents have rights when it comes to their children and I can understand the concerns by some parents in feeling those rights are being stripped away.  I don’t see it as a “left-wing liberal snowflake” agenda though.  I see it as an overall concern I have with education policymakers who pretend they want parental engagement but operate behind the scenes and make decisions which ALL parents should know about.  They should also be a part of those conversations and no back-door meetings should take place.
The reason I’m so torn on this issue is because for me it is relatively new.  I’m not in schools enough and I don’t know many transgender folks.  While this isn’t a brand-new issue, it has gotten the spotlight the past few years.  I’m against any kind of discrimination, period.  Equal rights for all.  But many Republicans are against transgender folks, as well as homosexuals, because of what the Bible says.  I’m sure I won’t win any friends here, but the Bible was rewritten in the Council of Nicea some 1,500 years ago.  By a group of men.  It wasn’t rewritten by God.  And while the Bible doesn’t address gender identity or expression, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a big debate in the Council of Nicea.  I’ve heard some say the Bible is “God-breathed”, meaning it is infallible.  But I’ve seen one message in the Bible taken in so many different ways that it seems folks forget the basic message of the good book: love your neighbor.  Be nice.  Be kind.  To me, that is the message I take from the Bible.  Did you learn to forgive others?  Do you give more than you take?  Do you do your best to set an example for your children?  To me, those are the important things.  I believe in the Ten Commandments.  I do my best to obey them.  I don’t covet my neighbor’s wife.  I know the couple next to me are moving out and I haven’t met my other neighbor yet.  I haven’t killed anyone.  And so on.  I will never understand hating someone for what they are or the choices they make.  If they get all the stuff I take from the Bible, I’m pretty sure their passage to Heaven (or whatever afterlife you choose to believe in) is assured.
If Delaware Republicans and Democrats want to make some real headway, how about they band together to get rid of the rot in our state government?  We did a pretty good job on opt out a couple years ago.  Imagine what we could do together if we REALLY got organized?

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Kevin Ohlandt

I am a proud parent of a son with Tourette's Syndrome and several other co-morbidities. I write on this blog to educate other parents so they know a bit more about not only special education, but all the really bad things that are happening with public schools in Delaware and the USA. We are all in this together, and if our children aren't able to advocate for themselves it's up to us parents! We need to stop letting companies run our schools, and demand our children get a proper education. Our Departments of Education in our states have become weak with fear from the bullying US DOE, and we need to take back our schools!

3 thoughts on “State Rep. Rich Collins Is Not Digging Gender Expression Regulations”

  1. To begin, it is not “executive overreach” for the Governor to direct the State Department of Education to enact guidelines for districts to use in guaranteeing protections afforded all people by the federal Dept of Ed (Title IX), especially given the current vacuum of regulations – and resulting lack of appropriate actions – in the individual districts. Furthermore, the Dept of Ed regularly passes regulations without legal action, so that’s an issue the General Assembly needs to address, if it is an issue to them. While I agree that in many cases the Dept of Ed puts forth regulations that should be laws instead, this is just a regulation for how schools must handle any protected subgroup in keeping with the regulations that already exist.

    Any attempt by any entity to engage constituents is entirely bound by the apathy of the people. I’ve seen (and reposted) the image that, on the top, has the candidate asking “who wants change?” with the entire audience replying “we do!” and, on the bottom, has the candidate asking “who wants TO change?” with no response from the audience. If people don’t like the way things are, the only way to make a change is to GO MAKE THE CHANGE. I’m tired of hearing how such-and-such organization didn’t properly engage people around issues, because I’ve been on the side of trying tactic after tactic to do just that only to have the events poorly-attended through no fault of the organization’s and then be blamed by the folks who didn’t bother to participate. It isn’t possible to be fully engaged in every single bit of work and every single event, true, yet if transgender policies are of concern to someone then that person should probably tune in to the various means of communication about the topic to ensure being heard.

    As a career educator, breaking large groups down into small groups to collect thoughts is THE BEST WAY to ensure ALL voices are heard. Otherwise you get the big voices dominating the conversations, and people walk away feeling like they shouldn’t have bothered to attend. This is not meant to reduce public criticism. If you want to be a troll, go on Facebook, or the Delaware Online comments section. These “Community Conversations” were not to determine whether people want the transgender (and other) regulations passed, but to determine what needs to happen and how to make the best policies possible. If you think that’s pre-determining an outcome, well, then, maybe there needs to be a conversation around the purpose of these meetings as opposed to a complaint issued about what happens as a result.

    Let’s do a quick primer on LGBTQIA+ terminology, specific to transgender, since that seems to be the real issue here. Transgender means “noting or relating to a person whose gender identity does not correspond to that person’s biological sex assigned at birth; noting or relating to a person who does not conform to societal gender norms or roles”. A person isn’t “a transgender”’; correct usage of the term would be “a transgender person” or “a person who identifies as transgender”. Sometimes the word is shortened to “trans”. The term “biological sex assigned at birth” means the doctor and/or parents looked at the tiny human upon its exit from the uterus, noted the presence or absence of testicles/ovaries/penis/vagina/etc., and said “it’s a boy!” or “it’s a girl!”. That has absolutely nothing to do with whether the tiny human IS a “boy” or a “girl” on the inside, so to speak. And yes, kids know very early on whether they are “in the right skin” or not. “Transitioning” is the process of changing from the assigned sex to the internal sense of gender identity, which can include dressing differently and choosing a new “gendered” name. There are several stages, usually beginning with the personal decision to transition. There is physical, psychological, social, and emotional transitioning which should take place at the comfort level of the individual, NOT just so it’s “more convenient” for the school or place of employment. Many people who are transgender do not have any kind of surgical procedure, but instead rely on hormonal supplements, physical adaptive devices, and conformation to binary gender norms, or any combination of those things.

    Oh, and gender identity is different from gender expression, and both are completely different from sexual orientation. If David transitions to Nancy and prefers males, Nancy is a straight transgender woman. If David transitions to Nancy and prefers females, Nancy is a lesbian transgender woman. If David identifies as a female and still wears “boy clothes”, David is still a transgender female. If David identifies as a male and wears “girl clothes”, David is just a guy expressing comfort with clothing normally assigned to those of the female gender.

    Everything has a standard now. Part of the rule they are trying to apply gets away from the idea that (for instance) a boy can do X number of push-ups and a girl can only do Y number of push-ups, and even then there are “boy” push-ups and “girl” push-ups, with the “girl” push-ups being modified to be easier. It should be based on each individual student’s own abilities and change in ability based on the training offered in the class throughout the timeframe applicable. One should be able to educate a student without resorting to genderism. And that’s not even getting into the implicit sexism of dress codes.

    Some parents or students aren’t comfortable with their children changing in the locker room with other kids. I’ve seen schools that allow the student to use the bathroom to change instead, or make other accommodations as appropriate. In the case of transgender students, there is a definite potential for serious issue if the student is out or not out to peers and to staff. Imagine if David Smith is on your roster, as a phys ed teacher, and you see “him” go into the girls’ locker room to change for class. If you didn’t know that David Smith is transgender and goes by Nancy Smith and is actually supposed to be in the girls’ locker room, that could set up a pretty tense situation that is entirely avoidable by making the proper accommodations from the get-go. David/Nancy walks into the boys’ locker room and is bullied and made to feel unsafe. David/Nancy walks into the girls’ locker room and a girl’s parents call the school and label David/Nancy a child predator who is pretending to be a girl just to look at girls changing. David/Nancy feels isolated and excluded, begins to avoid going to phys ed, then avoid going to school, and then possibly becomes a statistic. Schools right now won’t do it because they don’t HAVE to, which will only change if someone makes it change. The parents should be reaching out to the counselor and admin at the school to ensure their kids are safe. Some parents aren’t okay with their transgender kids. Schools still have to provide the safe learning environment without violating the student’s privacy rights OR creating a situation that is more dangerous for the child at home. It is complicated and tricky, but it is VITAL. And that’s why there must be regulations and procedures.

    For a transgender student, the use of appropriate name and pronouns is really, really important. Many trans kids will NOT be open about telling the teachers/staff their chosen names and pronouns unless they are socially transitioned. To intentionally call a transgender person by a name or pronoun other than the one you were requested to use is insanely disrespectful after you’ve already been told a few times. This is typically not a name that a student is going to ask to change every so often, and typically a change is for a specific reason. But even if they DO want to change the name every so often, who really cares? David Bowie and Michael J. Fox changed their names. I know someone who has different versions of her name that people know her by based on when they happened to meet her and their level of closeness, including maiden and married names. Who really cares? Seriously. Who. Really. Cares. It’s a name, and it’s just basic politeness to call someone what they ask you to call them. But imagine what a difference it would be for a transgender kid to go into phys ed knowing that the name on the roster will match their gender identity and they won’t have to have that uncomfortable conversation with the teacher to make sure they can use the right locker room or bathroom. This is a little tiny thing that can make a YUGE impact in the life of a student.

    Let’s tackle this nonsense about a kid being old enough to know who they are. Do me a favor: Open your favorite web search engine and type “transgender kids”. Educate yourself for a few minutes about how well kids can self-identify and at what early ages, and about all the physical, mental, emotional, and social benefits of supporting the kid in transitioning as early as possible. While you’re at it, look up how many people think they are transgender and then later determine they aren’t. I’ll wait, and get my nails done or something, because frankly I’m tired of these absolutely idiotic statements in what is literally the age of You Can Know It If You Want To. Obviously some folks prefer to remain in the dark.

    I’m not even going to address that any further, because the interwebs do it SO DAMN WELL FOR ME.

    As for legal aspects of transgender protections, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, “a few federal courts have ruled that the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law bars the government from discriminating against people based on their transgender status or gender transition.” So, yes, DE GA, please do what I have been asking for a few years now (some of you legislators know who you are) and SPECIFICALLY LIST GENDER IDENTITY AND EXPRESSION AS PROTECTED FROM DISCRIMINATION.

    You know, maybe instead of doing this because he’s The Guv and can do what he wants – which is kind of how this post is making it sound – Carney is pushing this because we have actual transgender people in actual situations of discrimination in actual schools at this actual time. Perhaps it isn’t a power play but an attempt to protect actual kids from adults who don’t know anything about this situation and are making things so much worse, often without even meaning to. Not everything is nefarious. Just a thought.

    And OH EM GEE that Bible argument. AGAIN. Will we never get over that? Which part of the Good Book am I supposed to follow, the part that says “an eye for an eye” or the part that says “turn the other cheek”? And let’s read the Song of Solomon, shall we?

    “While the king was on his couch, my nard gave forth its fragrance.”

    “Let my beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits…”

    “You are stately as a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters. I say I will climb the palm tree and lay hold of its branches.”

    We can read whatever we want into whatever PART we want but the reality is the Bible, however it came to be, was written by humankind, and translated by humankind, and the whole CHRIST part of Christian is the greatest is LOVE, to LOVE ONE ANOTHER. Not “to love one another unless the other is gay”. Seriously? Get out of here with that. And yes, I’m a practicing Catholic, and when I converted TO Catholicism, the pastor of my parish told us directly that the Bible is not to be taken literally, but instead is a series of tales, parables, passed down orally over generations, that give us guidance. I’ve heard 13- and 14-year-olds decimate the Bible arguments against LGBTQIA+ people. It’s fine if your beliefs based on your religion cause you to feel that folks who identify as LGBTQIA+ are sinful and wrong (or, worse, “love the sinner, hate the sin” because who WOULDN’T want to be told you like the person but not anything about them), but it is NOT fine for you to discriminate against those people or make them feel so bad about who they are that they feel they have no option but to no longer be alive.

    Because, at the end of the day, in general about 4.6% of people will attempt suicide, but 41% or more of transgender people will attempt suicide at some point. AND YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO PUSH ANY PERSON TO THAT EXTREME. 80% of trans students reported feeling unsafe at school because of their gender expression, as reported by Fenway Health. According to the founders of the Trans Lifeline, “staff so far have handled more than 20,000 calls from 5,500 unique phone numbers” as of two years ago. In a recent survey, of the roughly 40% of transgender adults who responded, 90% had attempted suicide. Holy shit, folks, that’s a fucking epidemic.

    Is it really asking too much for schools to provide a safe, welcoming learning environment for ALL students?


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