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Middletown commended by RIDE and Amnesty International for excellent transgender student policy

"RIDE found that Middletown Public Schools' policy is both accessible and comprehensive, reflecting a clear commitment to equitable support for students who identify as transgender..."

Editor's note: This article was originally published on Steve Alquist's reader-supported Substack on May 17, 2024. It is reprinted here with his permission.



Middletown RI school committee
Middletown School Committee by Steve Ahlquist.

“We were commended about our policy on [our] Transgender, Gender Non-Conforming, and Transitioning Student Policy,” said Middletown School Superintendent Rosemarie Kraeger at Thursday’s Middletown School Committee meeting. “We appreciate the work that we do collaboratively with other districts, but also the school department's law firm helping us craft these and making sure these comply with all the regulations.”

Superintendent Kraeger’s announcement was in reaction to a letter from the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), congratulating the school district for having a policy that is “both accessible and comprehensive, reflecting a clear commitment to equitable support for students who identify as transgender” as well as being in alignment with federal and state statutes.”


The letter reads:


“The Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recently conducted a comprehensive review of Transgender and Gender Non-conforming policies within the state.

“During this review, the RIDE found that Middletown Public Schools' policy is both accessible and comprehensive, reflecting a clear commitment to equitable support for students who identify as transgender. Furthermore, it aligns with federal and state statutes, ensuring compliance with legal requirements.


“Comprehensive, accessible policies reduce stigmatization of and improve the educational integration of transgender and gender non-conforming students. We look forward to witnessing the positive impact of this policy on your schools and the broader educational landscape within our state.


“Thank you for your steadfast commitment to creating an inclusive and equitable educational experience for all students.”


Also there to congratulate the Middletown School Committee for their excellent policy was Amnesty International’s Gregory Waksmulski, who noted that such policies “help our communities be welcoming places and respectful of all human rights for all people.”


“I wanted to come down today as a member of Amnesty International,” said Waksmulski. “We're the largest human rights organization in the world. We have millions of members. Right here in the United States, we have hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people who are all focused on human rights.


“We wanted to give you guys commendations. I know you've already received it from RIDE, regarding your gender diverse and transgender policy. It follows the guidelines and protocols very closely. Amnesty International has been very aware since 2015 of all kinds of things that help our communities be welcoming places and respectful of all human rights for all people. This has included in recent years having a look at school committees. Y'all seem to be on the front lines of human rights here in the United States, and that's no different in Rhode Island.


“We are incredibly lucky in this part of the country when it comes to protecting our families and children. We looked at what RIDE has said to you, and we just want to echo it. We've been hanging out in all 39 cities and villages around the state all year, and we've been hanging out with school committee members looking at a model policy based on the guidelines and the protocols and helping some school committees come to decisions on what their policies may or may not need.


“You guys get flying colors. We're encouraged. We'd like to work with you if you feel like you want to promote this as a model policy for similarly sized districts [across] the state. We'd love to help facilitate that. We see you. You guys are doing a great job.


“We understand how difficult it can be to balance all the needs in every community. We've got a lot of wisdom from this fight all over the country. We'd love to share it with you if you ever need it. And with that, thank you.”



As I drive around the state, covering right-wing attacks on the rights of transgender, gender diverse, and transitioning students in municipalities such as Foster, Westerly, Barrington, and Smithfield, I am occasionally heartened by the actions of towns like North Kingstown, which passed an excellent policy in February, and now Middletown, celebrating its excellent and pre-existing policy with this recent letter from RIDE.


Municipalities not unduly influenced by outspoken right-wing bigots and extremist hate groups pass and enforce policies that protect all students, including those who identify as transgender, gender diverse, or transitioning. This is to the benefit of students, who benefit from these policies in many ways, including increased mental health, but also to taxpayers who avoid costly litigation.





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