Saturday, March 4, 2017

Making Vulnerable Kids More Vulnerable

People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs."
Luke 18:15-16

Recently the Trump administration rescinded the guidelines given by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education requiring that public schools allow transgender students to use the bathrooms and facilities corresponding to their gender identity.

This means that the students most vulnerable to bullying and harassment are given less protection.

Those already most vulnerable are made even more vulnerable.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, called it “a mean-spirited attack on hundreds of thousands of students who simply want to be their true selves and be treated with dignity while attending school,".

For decades, maybe centuries, transgender adults have been using the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity. Most transgender folks dress and look like the gender with which they identify. And the rest of us don’t think very much about it.

The situation for transgender kids is more difficult. Before they understood their gender identity as different from their biology at birth, classmates may have known them as a different gender. The trans male may have been known previously as female, or vice versa. This makes them uniquely vulnerable to bullying and harassment.

The goal of the original guidelines, put forth last year, was to give kids protection at this very vulnerable time in their lives.

In rescinding those protections, the Trump administration presented the actions of the Justice and Education departments as simply affirming the rights of the states to develop their own guidelines.

"As President Trump has clearly stated, he believes policy regarding transgender bathrooms should be decided at the state level," the White House said in a statement. "The joint decision made today by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education returning power to the states paves the way for an open and inclusive process to take place at the local level with input from parents, students, teachers and administrators."

Although the directive was presented as the shared product of Justice and Education, the
initiative came from Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Publicly, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was in agreement, but she was a reluctant participant.

She told Sessions about her reservations, but she was called in to the White House for a meeting with Sessions and Mr. Trump and was told to get on board.

"It was the President's decision," a source told CNN. "When the President tells you to do something you don't want to do, that is a hard spot to be in."

CNN reported that “DeVos reminded Trump that both of them had publicly promised to protect all students, and she felt that withdrawing the guidance ran counter to those promises. She was concerned that some people may interpret the action as removing protections.”

DeVos asked for clarification in the directive affirming that the rights of students would continue to be protected and assuring them that the Office of Civil Rights of the Education Department would investigate any complaints.

After the directive was released, Devos reaffirmed the Education Department’s responsibility "to protect every student in America and ensure that they have the freedom to learn and thrive in a safe and trusted environment.”

"This is not merely a federal mandate, but a moral obligation no individual, school, district or state can abdicate," she said in a statement. "At my direction, the department's Office for Civil Rights remains committed to investigating all claims of discrimination, bullying and harassment against those who are most vulnerable in our schools."

According to the Trump administration the guidelines protecting transgender students were withdrawn because the president believes that “policy regarding transgender bathrooms should be decided at the state level.”

In other words, the administration is claiming neutrality, which is another way of saying that they side with the bullies. 

As Bishop Tutu observed, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

Thank you for reading. Your thoughts and comments are always welcome. Please feel free to share on social media as you wish.

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