The last time Rachel Pepe was at school, she was known to her teachers and classmates as Brian.
Now, as the 13-year-old transitions her identity and gender with the support of her mother, Rachel may not be able to go back.
Her mother says an official at Thorne Middle School told her Rachel must come back school dressed as Brian and prepared to act like Brian. No accommodations would be made and no out-of-district educational options would be available.
The decision by the Thorne official is a violation of state and federal anti-discrimination laws, experts argue. Now, Middletown’s school superintendent says his district will work with Rachel’s family to reach a resolution.
“He was going to school last year as Brian,” said Angela Peters, Rachel’s mother, adding that her child developed stress-related seizures, depression and panic attacks. “How can I send her back as Rachel? And I am not sending her back as Brian because the depression will start again.”
Rachel remained deeply isolated from the rest of the student body but still, her mother said, the children would bully her because she was so quiet.
“She would get off the bus and just cry,” Peters said. “Then she would go to sleep for 17 or 20 hours and refuse to go back there.”
Although Rachel wouldn’t share her grief, “a mother knows when something was wrong.”
Rachel knew, too.
“I sort of felt something was missing, that something was wrong,” Rachel said of her gender identity.
“This is just recently I realized I wanted to be a girl,” she said. As for her name, Rachel “just came to me. It just fits.”
Source: USA Today | Carol Gorga Williams, Asbury Park (N.J.) Press