- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 17, 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 now 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 accommodating 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 would 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 had 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 would reenroll, but stressed that the district was 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 has also put together a packet of information about transgendered children that has been made available to parents upon request, she said.

On the Americans for Truth website, 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 8,” 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 been working 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 three and five. The district is doing the right thing by aiding the child, she said, because children need to have their sexual identity accepted before they can succeed in school.

“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.

Most school districts have transgendered students, she said, but often nobody knows about them. Ms. Wong said the district, the third-largest in Colorado with 51,000 students, probably has other such children.

“I don’t think this student is the only one,” Ms. Wong said. “I think this is the only one where the families thought that they needed media attention.”

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