Transgender Girl Says Schools Shunned Her Because of Gender Identity

Dana, 15, has been identifying herself as a girl outside her home since the start of the school year. She hasn’t attended school for over two months.

AP

Dana, 15, was supposed to start 10th grade at the beginning of the school year. Instead, she has been sitting at home for the past two-and-a-half months because no educational institution has been found that will take her.

Dana, who is transgender, has been identifying herself as a girl outside her home since the start of the school year. Although now is the time she is particularly in need of a supportive and accepting environment for her studies, the official bodies have apparently not come to her assistance.

Dana herself wants to return to the junior high school she attended until a few months ago, but she and her mother have been told several times that there is no place for her there, she says.

Until the start of the school year Dana still identified herself in school as a boy, but her girlfriends knew that she was transgender and she behaved like a girl at home. Her parents are divorced and she lives with her mother, who immigrated with her daughter from one of the countries of the former Soviet Union when Dana was very young and supports her sex change. 

Last year it was decided to transfer Dana from the school where she was studying to a vocational school, based on psychological assessments and the recommendations of a placement committee. Dana says that despite the complexity of her situation, nobody helped her with the transfer to the new school – neither in preliminary meetings with the teaching staff or in discussions with the students.

Tomer Appelbaum

After an unpleasant day-and-a-half in the new school she realized that she couldn’t continue to study there. “Only the female teachers knew about my change," she says. "On the first day I came alone, as a woman. It was hard for me and I was very scared. I was tense. I was afraid of the reactions of other students and teachers."

The main reason Dana wants to return to her previous school is a close group of girlfriends who have been with her for years. "I have seven or eight really close girlfriends who support me. They said that if anyone laughs at me they’ll protect me.”

Her girlfriends describe a quiet and introverted girl who needs a lot of support. One of them, Maya, said that “I met her in third grade as a boy. From his behavior and other things I knew that he wasn’t ordinary. But it really didn’t bother me, and the fact is that we’ve been in contact since third grade. I knew that he wasn’t going to date women, I thought that at most he’d come out of the closet, and it didn’t really matter to me.

Dana is being assisted by Nora Greenberg, a prominent transgender activist. Greenberg says that the school principal has not responded to her requests for a meeting. But she adds that Dana’s former homeroom teacher and the school adviser cooperated and were positive in their attitude towards Dana.

She also said that the mother and her daughter were invited to a meeting with the director of the education department in the local council where Dana lives, where they were told that Dana couldn't return to the previous school, and that they would find a new school for her.

After more than two months out of school, Dana feels rejected. “I tried talking to the woman in charge of me in the municipality, who tried to convince me to transfer to another school," she says. "The municipality said that it would be best in the new school, because there nobody knows me.”

The ORT school network, which owns the school where Dana wants to study, said that the issue "is being handled by the Education Ministry.”

The local school system where Dana is studying said in response that “at the end of the previous school year, the student asked on her own initiative, and with her parents’ support, to transfer to the vocational school. The school helped her with the transfer. Because the transfer was unsuccessful she recently asked to return to the school. We are examining her request and have already had a number of meetings with her, including a joint meeting yesterday with her parents.” The municipality emphasized that “There is no connection between what happened and the sex change. Any attempt to connect them is groundless.”

The Education Ministry said that “there is no basis to the claims that no educational institution was found for the student because of her sexual identity. The schools in her town include many students with a wide range of identities and gender proclivities who receive individual guidance from the educational staff and advisers from the psychological-advisory service of the Education Ministry. In the past school year the student completed her junior high school studies and, for pedagogical and diagnostic reasons, she was sent to an educational framework in a high school in a nearby city.

"The transition to the new framework was done with full consent and from an in-depth view of the student’s educational needs. The student’s objection to the placement was received only now in the Tel Aviv district and the student will immediately be invited to a meeting with the district supervisors who will accompany her until there is a placement that suits her needs.”