- The Washington Times - Monday, February 18, 2008

HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. — He’s an 8-year-old boy who wants to attend second grade here in the Douglas County Public Schools, but with an unusual stipulation: He wants to go to class as a girl.

That means wearing girls’ clothing if he likes, being addressed by his teacher with a girl’s name, and using the school’s two unisex, family bathrooms instead of the boys’ room.

School district officials are preparing to accommodate the transgender child and his family, but not without public fuss.

Other parents at the school have gone public with their objections, citing concerns about exposing their own children to the sensitive subjects of sex and gender identification, and questioning the wisdom of the school’s accommodation of the boy.

“I don’t think a [second-grader] does have the rationale to decide this life-altering choice,” said Dave M., who told Denver’s KUSA-TV that his daughter will be in the same class as the transgendered boy.

Another dozen or so parents have sent concerned e-mails to the school district, said schools spokeswoman Whei Wong. More e-mails have arrived from out of state as word of the situation spreads on the blogosphere, notably via conservative and Christian Web sites.

The district isn’t releasing the name of the family or the elementary school in order to protect the child. The student attended the elementary school in kindergarten and first grade, but then left for another school district, Ms. Wong said.

She declined to say when exactly the student will re-enroll, but stressed that the district is obligated to provide an education to all students, no matter what their situation.

“We want the student to have a positive learning environment because if the student is distracted, they can’t learn,” Ms. Wong said.

Families with questions about the school’s response are being directed to the principal. The school also compiled a packet of information about transgendered children that is available to parents upon request, she said.

On the Americans for Truth Web site, group President Peter LaBarbera criticized the district for teaching other children that identifying as a member of the opposite sex is acceptable behavior.

“What does this kid know? He’s eight,” said Mr. LaBarbera. “When you allow abnormal behavior, it’s like you’re telegraphing to other kids that aberrant behavior is okay, that it’s normal. So the school is imprinting in all these kids’ minds this gender confusion.”

Such responses have transgender advocates worried about the child’s safety. Kim Pearson, a Wisconsin-based advocate who has worked with the Colorado family, said she fears the publicity could create a dangerous environment for the child.

“I’m anxious to see how things play out, and I’m holding my breath that this kid and the family are going to be safe,” said Mrs. Pearson, executive director of TransYouth Family Advocates.

She said her organization works with children as young as five, and cited the American Academy of Pediatrics as saying that sexual identity is formed between the ages of 3 and 5.

“Until a child like this gets this piece of the puzzle in place, they can’t learn, they can’t get an education, they can’t form relationships with other people,” said Mrs. Pearson, whose 15-year-old daughter identifies as a boy.

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