by Carol Gorga Williams, Asbury Park Press
MIDDLETOWN – Rachel Pepe, the 13-year-old transgender middle school student who says she was being forced to return to classes as a boy, may now have alternatives after a meeting with schools Superintendent William O. George.
The superintendent — who is out of district today — met with Rachel and her mother Angela Peters, 32, Monday.
"Although the student is welcome to return to Thorne Middle School for the 2014-2015 school year, we are now in the process of investigating alternative placements at the parent's request," George said in a statement posted on the Middletown Schools Home page. "As is our regular practice, we will work with this student and her parent to agree upon the placement that best meets her educational, social and emotional needs in the least restrictive environment."
George also has agreed to let Garden State Equality, the state's largest civil rights group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, conduct sensitivity workshops throughout the district, which educates 10,000 students.
Garden State Equality has been working with the family and the district to assure Rachel can attend school where she feels safe and welcome.
"The two agreed that GSE will take the lead in training administration and staff members of Middletown Township Public Schools in LGBT sensitivity," said Andrea Bowen, executive director of Garden State Equality.
The group will work with partners Lambda Legal and the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network Central New Jersey chapter.