Target: Tom Olausen, Principal of Thorne Middle School
Goal: Urge school authorities to be charged with discrimination against transgender student
As many young people prepare for back to school, a 13-year-old transgender girl desperately searches for a school district that will accept her as ‘Rachel,’ instead of ‘Brian’ — her former, ultimately tormented, self. In the midst of a bitter discrimination battle, administrators at Thorne Middle School have refused to allow Rachel Peters to attend school — citing her birth certificate as a reason why staff and students “…would be unable to refer to her as anything other than ‘Brian.’”
Rachel Peters, like many young transgender people, suffered from severe mental health issues last school year, as a result of trying to suppress her rampant gender dysphoria, which is a clinical diagnosis used to explain the conflict between one’s gender identity and the gender one is assigned at birth. According to the teen’s mother, Angela Peters, Rachel suffered from debilitating panic attacks, depression and even stress-induced seizures. In an interview with New Jersey’s Asbury Park Press Peters states “…she would get off the bus and just cry…then she would go to sleep for 17 or 20 hours and refuse to go back there [Thornton Middle School]…”
As the conflict ensues, administrators of Thornton Middle School continue to uphold a callous and albeit intolerant stance, stating that Rachel would not be allowed to attend the school unless she “presented herself as a boy, acted like Brian and dressed as Brian,” despite the teen’s past mental health problems when forced to conform to a gender she didn’t identify with. The school also refused to compromise on issues like bathroom usage and protection against bullying, insisting that Rachel use the boys’ bathrooms and claiming that they were in no position to adequately care for Rachel if she was bullied.
Further, the school’s stance is in direct violation of clauses stated in the Civil Rights Act and New Jersey’s own civil rights laws, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of one’s gender identity or expression in employment, housing, credit and contracting, and public accommodations, among other environments and situations. In a world where transgender people are given very few safe spaces to occupy, an educational institution seems the last place a young trans person should be denied access to.
Sign the petition to urge Tom Olausen, Principal of Thornton Middle School, to stop ostracizing Rachel Peters, and demand that the school’s authorities be charged with discrimination.
Dear Tom Olausen,
I am shocked and appalled at how you and Thornton Middle School administrators treated 13-year-old trans student Rachel Peters. As a supporter of LGBT rights and advocate for trans rights, there is nothing sadder to me than a child being denied an education simply because an institution actively refuses to accept, protect and empathize with a struggling trans youth. From depression, to panic attacks and even stress-induced seizures, Rachel Peters has suffered for far too long to conform to a gender identity and expression that is beyond her.
Your school’s choice to discriminate against her further, in a world where transgender people are unwelcome in a plethora of arenas, places, and situations, is cause for immediate concern. Title IX of the Civil Rights Act protects transgender students from being discriminated against on account of their gender identity, and New Jersey’s own civil rights law prohibits discrimination on the basis of one’s gender identity, so your school is in direct violation of the law.
I urge you to accept Rachel Peters for who she is today, instead of demanding that she express herself as ‘Brian,’ and see to it that your school’s administrators be reprimanded for their heartless discrimination.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: ParaDox via Wikimedia