PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — More than a dozen Rhode Island organizations have written a letter to all the state’s school districts, calling for them all to “formally and publicly” reaffirm support for the rights of transgender students.
The letter comes after last week’s announcement by the Trump administration to discard guidance to schools across the country which – implemented by the Obama administration last year – advised schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identities.
The withdrawal “sends a harmful message to transgender youth that their government is not willing to stand up and protect their rights,” said Chris Lauth, the executive director of Youth Pride, Inc., in a statement Monday.
“Transgender youth already experience increased anxiety, depression, and suicide due to bullying, harassment, violence and rejection,” he continued.
In a separate statement, the Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU noted that some school districts had already countered the message of the federal government discontinuing the guidance: Providence, East Greenwich, Cumberland, and South Kingstown, as well as the Rhode Island Department of Education. “But many [districts] have not,” the ACLU’s Steven Brown said, and the groups called on districts that don’t have a formal policy protecting transgender students to “adopt one expeditiously.”
Besides Youth Pride, Inc., and the RI ACLU, the other organizations signing the letter were the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights, AIDS Project RI, TGI Network, RI Pride, Family Service of RI, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, SAGE-RI, RI Commission on Prejudice and Bias, RI Working Families, Thundermist Health Center, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, Sojourner House, and the Racial Justice Coalition.
Some conservatives and critics of the Obama guidance believed it had been a federal overreach, and that individual states should have the right to set down their own rules.