Transgender students from across state discuss challenges they face at schools

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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Transgender students came together in Harrisburg to share experiences of discrimination and support at their schools across Pennsylvania.

President Donald Trump's administration withdrew federal protections for transgender students last week.

State Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine said, "And by having that withdrawn it makes transgender youth much more vulnerable to harassment and bullying in schools."

Levine said this isn't just an issue about which bathroom transgender students should use.

"That has a lot of profound implications for LGBTQ youth, particularly transgender youth in schools," she said.

Legislators in favor of Trump's decision said it's an issue of privacy.

State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe said, "The privacy issues should certainly outweigh these minority of students advocacy for them to be recognized as someone that they were not born to be."

Randall Wenger, the chief counsel for Pennsylvania Family Institute, said this is an ongoing debate regarding what should be done about personal privacy.

Wenger said, "While it's important that we're treating everybody with love, respect and civility, we shouldn't have to give up our bodily privacy and be naked in the shower with someone else in order to affirm our love and respect."

One student said he was the first one at his school to graduate as transgender, and he did it with the administration's acceptance and help.

Tadi Betancourt, an East Pennsboro Area High School graduate, said, "I definitely did not do this all myself. To promote and do LGBT trainings and talking about it for them to get a better understanding on what they don't know."

Transgender students said they just want to be accepted at school, whether it's by the administration or fellow students.

Elijah Dawson, who went to Great Valley High School in Chester County, said, "We're talking about children, we're talking about students here. We're talking about their comfort, and it's important that students feel safe at school."

Levine said the Wolf administration is supportive of the transgender community and hopes to continue working toward passing non-discrimination legislation.

For right now, only 15 out of 500 school district have policies protecting transgender students, according to the Pennsylvania Youth Congress.