N.J. schools wrongfully remove protections for transgender students

It’s fear. Fear drives parents like Frederick K. Short Jr. to sue school districts that refuse to repeal Policy 5756. 

Policy 5756 was signed into law in 2017 by former Gov. Chris Christie, guided by the New Jersey’s Department of Education, in regard to the safety and protection of the civil rights of students. The policy ensures the safety of transgender and nonbinary students by not requiring their educators to inform their parents of their gender identity. 

Parental rights groups cling desperately to the belief that outing a child’s gender identity to their family is for the child’s safety. Safety. A word that seems to be warped by these activities. 

Despite legislation, LGBTQ+ people know freedom as allies support their freedom. Now that it’s known and felt, it isn’t going away. 

Only an ignorant mind assumes every nonbinary or transgender child will be safe in their home. Pleasant imaginations of what life is like for these students is not enough to save their lives. I say this because 41% of LGBTQ youth have seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, and transgender and nonbinary students have higher rates than their cisgender peers, according to the most recent finding by The Trevor Project. 

Marlboro, Manalapan, Middletown, Colts Neck, Lacey, Lafayette and the Sussex-Wantage Regional School District have effectively repealed policy 5756. 

Over the summer, I attended most of these school board meetings, whether sitting in a library on the right side of history or protesting outside, and I’ve seen the faces of parental rights activists. 

I’ve looked past their pride and certainty that what they believe is all there is, and I see something they can’t see in themselves: genuine, deep-seated fear that it is no longer about them anymore. 

I say I am on the right side of history because if there’s one thing I know conservatives love, it is the Constitution and the founding of America. 

So, let’s go back to basics — The Seven Big Ideas, taught in every foundation American history course: Freedom, Self-Rule, Limited Government, Individualism, The American Dream, Equality, Religion. 

I prompt parental rights groups to refresh their memory on individualism and self-rule and look a transgender or nonbinary child in the eye, and say, “You are not entitled to this. You are not American.”

I fear many parents will not have a problem doing so. They are desperate to ensure the government cannot withhold information on their children from them. I cannot help but ask: Why isn’t your child opening up to you about their identity in the first place? 

I’ve heard all of the arguments, the most common being that “there are only two genders.” Statistics from The Trevor Project statistic and copious scientific evidence validate the existence of gender dysphoria, yet the gender spectrum will not matter to them. Parental rights groups deny reality and cling to the comfort of their limited experiences.

They are so fearful of giving credence to unfamiliar identities, this statistic from the National Center for Transgender Equality will not matter to them: “Sixty-three percent of our participants experienced serious acts of discrimination—events that would have a major impact on a person’s quality of life and ability to sustain themselves financially or emotionally. Participants reported that they had faced: School bullying/harassment so bad the respondent had to drop out, teacher bullying, physical assault due to bias, sexual assault due to bias, homelessness because of gender identity/expression, denial of medical service due to bias.” 

However, these statistics can mean something to you. 

Ignorance is bliss, and these parents are aging, every day feeling their significance in history diminish because society only moves forward, not backwards. Despite legislation, LGBTQ+ people know freedom as allies support their freedom. Now that it’s known and felt, it isn’t going away. 

To those reading who are allies and aren’t vocalizing their support for their transgender and nonbinary peers loudly and proudly, now is the time to start. 

To students affected by the redaction of Policy 5756 in New Jersey, the character Mary Whitney from one of my favorite novels, “Alias Grace,” has a quote for you: 

“We didn’t lose. We just haven’t won yet.” 




Featured photo courtesy of Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, Flickr