Parents to be notified if student identifies as transgender in California school district
(KTLA) – Hundreds attended a heated California school board meeting as a controversial policy requiring parental notification of transgender children passed with a 4-1 vote.
The policy requires staff to notify parents in writing within three days after a student requests to identify with a gender different than what is on their birth certificate, according to Chino Valley Unified School District.
The notification also applies to students who request a pronoun change or to be called a different name that is not listed on official school records. The request to use a different bathroom will also activate the notification policy.
The board voted on the policy Thursday night in an hours-long meeting filled with tension. State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Thurmond, was in attendance and spoke against passing the policy during the public comment period.
During his speech, he was cut off and a shouting match erupted from the audience as he was escorted out of the building.
“I was shocked that the board president started to dress me down as a public speaker who stayed within the one-minute limit,” Thurmond said. “So because she was doing that, I returned to the podium. If she wants to engage in a discussion and a debate, I’m more than happy to do that.”
The policy’s approval was met with mixed reactions from the large audience as attendees remain divided on the issue.
The controversial policy has stirred up heated debate from both supporters and critics while gaining national attention.
Ahead of the vote, Sonja Shaw, parent and Chino Valley Unified Board president, said, “I feel very confident that we have a board majority that supports parental rights.”
Shaw is among the board members responsible for putting forth the policy and said the bottom line remains that parents have a right to know.
“We’re going to safeguard parental rights,” Shaw said. “That is a constitutional right, and we’re going to make sure that our parents at Chino Valley know they’re sending their kids here to be taught, not to be anything else.”
The policy mirrors Assembly Bill 1314 introduced earlier this year but never passed. The bill called to have California school districts notify parents if their children were gender nonconforming. Critics said the bill would force children to be “outed” and would force others to maintain a level of secrecy.
“You as the school board would never understand the gravity of the danger this resolution places upon transgender students,” said a Chino Valley student at an April meeting on the issue. “You are supposed to protect students. You are supposed to support students. You are supposed to ensure equality for each student. However, proposing this resolution does the complete opposite.”
Kristi Hirst, a former educator with the district for 14 years and a mother of three children in the Chino Valley Unified School District, said the policy promotes distrust.
“I know education works best when you have committed parents who are engaged, working with caring teachers to create a safe environment for all kids,” Hirst said. “This policy does the opposite of that. It’s rooted in distrust. It promotes that parents shouldn’t trust the school and teachers, and that is not good for education.”’
Hirst is also the founder of Our Schools USA, an organization “dedicated to empowering parents, students, and community members to protect quality public education for all students.”
Hirst said students will agree that the policy is not in the best interest of the students or the education system.
“They will constantly have to be on guard even if they aren’t the one being targeted by this policy,” Hirst said of the students.
KTLA’s legal analyst, Alison Triessl, weighed in on the legality of the policy.
“It is at direct odds with the California Department of Education and seems to be a direct odds with the California Constitution, which allows minors to enjoy the right of privacy when it comes to their gender, identification, and notification,” Triessl said. “So in my opinion, this is not legal.”
California Attorney General Rob Bonta released a statement saying:
“By allowing for the disclosure of a student’s gender identity without their consent, Chino Valley Unified School District’s suggested Parental Notification policy would strip them of their freedom, violate their autonomy, and potentially put them in a harmful situation. Our schools should be protecting the rights of all students, especially those who are most vulnerable, and should be safeguarding students’ rights to fully participate in all educational and extracurricular opportunities. I strongly encourage CVUSD to prioritize the rights and privacy of all their students.”
Critics also noted that implementing the policy would place yet another burden on teachers and staff who already have a lot to juggle and may not want to report this type of information.
Thurmond said he plans to challenge the policy both on the state and federal levels.