Catholic School Snubs Transgender Students on Policy

(Photo: Scott Barkley)

(Photo: Scott Barkley, Creative Commons)

Alumni of the private Catholic school Mount Saint Charles Academy in Rhode Island are voicing their anger over the school’s exclusion of transgender students in the most recent edition of the school’s Parent-Student Handbook.

The new admissions policy in the school appears to only single out transgender students for exclusion.  While race, color, national origin and ethnic background are all mentioned, gender and sexuality do not make an appearance in the attributes protected under the nondiscrimination statement in the handbook.

“Mount Saint Charles Academy is unable to make accommodations for transgender students. Therefore, MSC does not accept transgender students nor is MSC able to continue to enroll students who identify as transgender,” the handbook says in a section pertaining to its “philosophy of admissions.”

It is currently unknown whether any transgender students who attend the school have been expelled from the school as a result of the new policy.

The alumni petition, started by 2009 graduate David Coletta on change.org and posted to his Facebook page, asks the school to “Leave the hateful rhetoric in the past, accept trans students.”  Coletta said he created the petition after discovering that the school had included the new policy in its handbook last October.  To date, there are over 1,600 signatures on the petition, close to twice the size of the average student population at the school, which typically stands around 850.

Coletta said the school would not have banned these students when he was attending, adding that the new policy “goes against their own teachings.”

“It’s completely different than how they teach their students to behave,” he said. “We were always taught there to be very accepting and loving of others.”

Although the petition has not caused any change to the policy as of yet, school officials recently released a “Statement Regarding Transgender Students at MSC” which says that although the school has not received an official request to change the policy, the administration is hard at work finding ways to reasonably accommodate transgender students at the school.

The policy goes on to say that while some may view the guidelines as “intolerant,” it exists because “facilities may not be adequate to service some students.”  The school explains that it is not a “comprehensive high school” and is unable to serve all students.  While some may not qualify on an academic level, others may have learning plans the school is unable to accommodate.

There has recently been discussion across the nation concerning whether North American K-12 Catholic schools should allow transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice, or play on the sports teams that they identify with on a gender level, writes Cleis Abeni for The Advocate.

While no official word on the matter has been released by the Roman Catholic Diocese, the Rhode Island ACLU discussed the constitutionality of the matter in terms of civil liberties, saying that although the school does receive some state aid, it is not enough to hold them to constitutional constraints.  The statement says that separate statutes exist concerning the discrimination of both public and private institutions, although many of them contain exemptions for religious institutions.