Transgender middle schooler Rachel Pepe claims that the school where she wishes to attend has forbidden her from attending unless she shows up as her birth gender.
Pepe, a 13-year-old student at Thorne Middle School in Middletown, New Jersey, was born male and named Brian, and it’s Brian that school officials have demanded for the upcoming school year.
From the USA Today report:
The last time Rachel Pepe was at school, she was known to her teachers and classmates as Brian.
Now, as the 13-year-old transitions her identity and gender with the support of her mother, Rachel may not be able to go back.
Her mother says an official at Thorne Middle School told her Rachel must come back school dressed as Brian and prepared to act like Brian. No accommodations would be made and no out-of-district educational options would be available.
The decision by the Thorne official is a violation of state and federal anti-discrimination laws, experts argue. Now, Middletown’s school superintendent says his district will work with Rachel’s family to reach a resolution.
Angela Peters, Rachel’s mother, told the news site, “He was going to school last year as Brian,” adding that the transgender teen “developed stress-related seizures, depression and panic attacks” along the way.
“How can I send her back as Rachel? And I am not sending her back as Brian because the depression will start again.”
Peters claims that Rachel was “deeply isolated” and bullied by the other children at Thorne. “She would get off the bus and just cry,” Peters said. “Then she would go to sleep for 17 or 20 hours and refuse to go back there.”
More from the report:
“I sort of felt something was missing, that something was wrong,” Rachel said of her gender identity.
“This is just recently I realized I wanted to be a girl,” she said. As for her name, Rachel “just came to me. It just fits.”
Peters said, however, the school was not willing to bend for Rachel.
A Thorne official told Peters the school was not equipped to handle Rachel, Peters said.
“I said, ‘What about letting her go to the bathroom in the nurse’s office?'” Peters said. That proposal was rejected.
“Peters said she was told school officials couldn’t call her Rachel because her birth certificate says Brian. But Peters pointed out the school allows for nicknames to be used…. Middletown Schools Superintendent William O. George addressed the case in general terms.
“We as a district want to do everything we can as a district,” George said. “Every child is different and their education and social and emotional well being is my priority. We will work with them to find the appropriate placement.”
“I support this without interviewing this child. It certainly is reasonable. Children with psycho-sexual issues often benefit from a fresh start at a new school,” he said.
What do you think, readers? Do you think this school is doing all it can or should do to support this transgender teen, or is this a case of gender discrimination? Share your thoughts in our comments section.
[Image via Asbury Park Press]