Officials with Thorne Middle School in Middletown, New Jersey have refused to allow a transitioning transgender student to return to school using her new gender identity, APP.com reports.
Rachel Pepe attended the middle school last year under her birth name, “Brian,” but when she tried to register for classes with her new gender identity, school district officials told her she would have to return to Thorne dressed as and answering to “Brian.”
Rachel said that over the last year, she “realized I wanted to be a girl. I sort of felt something was missing, that something was wrong.” Her mother, Angela Peters, worries that sending her back to Thorne Middle School as “Brian” would cause a recurrence of the crippling depression that she suffered with last year.
“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. Although Pepe wouldn’t share her grief, a mother knows when something was wrong.”
Her mother told APP.com that school officials informed her that “[t]hey definitely can’t call her Rachel because on her birth certificate, it is ‘Brian.'” This same official told her that the school lacked the ability to accommodate Rachel, and rejected her mother’s attempts to propose possible solutions.
“I said, ‘What about letting her go to the bathroom in the nurse’s office?'” But that proposal was rejected.
Last year, California passed a bill requiring schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that corresponds to their chosen gender identity. Despite sustained conservative outcry, the only cases of transgender students “harassing” their peers were proven to have been fabricated.
Middletown Schools Superintendent William O. George said he had no knowledge of the controversy, but insisted that “we as a district want to do everything we can as a district. 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.”
Michael Silverman of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, said that “certainly the family has legal avenues if they wish to pursue them. The family would have a strong case against discrimination.”
Watch a video about Rachel Pepe via APP.com below.