ALLENTOWN, Pa. - At Project Silk in Allentown, LGBT teens are encouraged to share what is on their minds.
Program manager Kim Ketterer says after the US Department of Education rescinded Title 9 protections for transgender students using school bathrooms based on sexual identity, a lot of the center's teens are concerned.
"It really takes effect on their mental health and their ability to succeed academically if they have to worry about protections for themselves," said Ketterer.
The issue is now up to the state.
One local teacher who is also the parent of a transgender student says this is a sad day for kids.
"They are having some concern and quite a bit of difficulty coming to terms with this, "said Kevin Deely. "We just want to make sure that our children are safe and that they are protected."
But the American Family Association of Pennsylvania is applauding the reversal, saying the Obama administration had no legal authority to reinterpret Title 9 to include sexual identity and that transgender teens should have separate facilities.
"They should not be harassed or bullied, but then again they should not be allowed to use the private facilities of the opposite sex," said AFAPA President Diane Gramley.
Bethlehem Superintendent Dr. Joseph Roy says his district had transgender bathroom protections years before presidents Obama and Trump thrust the issue into the spotlight.
"My biggest concern is that with all the swirl of the politics outside of the schoolhouse that it's going to create discomfort for kids inside school," said Roy.
Several other districts shared their thoughts about the reversal.
Both Allentown and East Penn school districts say they have accommodated several requests from transgender students and their parents.
East Penn Community Liaison Laura Groh says the school will continue to handle the requests individually and confidentially.
“The district looks forward to receiving further clarification and direction from the Pennsylvania Department of Education," said the Groh.
A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Education says, "Governor Tom Wolf is committed to ensuring Pennsylvania remains a place where everyone feels welcome, and those protections must extend to our classrooms and schools."
State officials say they are reviewing guidance on the issue to devise a plan to protect all students, including a special bias and discrimination tool kit for districts.
Lehigh County resident Megan DePalma's life was drastically changed three years ago at age 23 when she was diagnosed with sarcoma, a very rare soft tissue cancer.Read More »
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