A sixth California school board has passed a parent notification policy that will require schools to notify parents if their child identifies as transgender, amid a statewide debate over the issue.
It was nearly midnight when the seven-member Orange Unified School Board passed the policy with a 4–0 vote on its second reading at a Sept. 7 meeting that began at 7 p.m. Trustees Andrea Yamasaki, Ana Page, and Kris Erickson were absent at the time of the vote.
The board’s conservative majority—President Rick Ledesma and Trustees Madison Miner, Angie Rumsey, and John Ortega—approved the policy. The three opposing trustees walked out of the meeting before the vote.
Under the policy, parents are also to be notified if their child requests to use names, pronouns, bathrooms, or locker rooms that don’t “align with the student’s biological sex or gender,” asks to participate in athletic programs that don't align with the student's biological sex, or requests to change information in his or her school records.
Orange Unified’s policy is based on similar policies recently enacted by five other districts in the state: Chino Valley Unified, Murrieta Valley Unified, Temecula Valley Unified, the Anderson Union High School District, and Rocklin Unified.
Exceptions Added to PolicyOrange Unified opted to make several changes to its own version, as outlined by Ms. Miner ahead of the vote.
Under Orange Unified’s policy, school staff is to first refer students to the school counselor, who will then consult with the principal. The principal is responsible for notifying parents of their child’s wish to transition so that the parent can be included in the school counseling.
Exceptions will be made for children older than 12 years old who refuse to consent to their parents being informed, or in cases where the school counselor or principal "has reasonable cause to believe that involvement of the [parent] would result in a clear and present danger to the health, safety, or welfare of the student of any age.”
“I believe in this policy,” Ms. Miner said. “I believe it will elevate every child’s chance for personal success and happiness. I believe in teaching critical thinking skills necessary to recognize and discern truth. ... By sacrificing truth on the altar of ideology, you are putting the schools and by extension, our children, at risk.”
The school board's consideration of the policy drew approximately 200 parents, teachers, students, and community members on both sides of the issue, who spoke passionately during the meeting’s public comment session.
Those who supported the policy said they did so not out of hate for the LGBT community, but because they wanted to stay involved in their children’s lives.
“It is crucial to emphasize that our position is not rooted in any animosity towards [the] transgender or LGBT community. Rather, it stems from our profound love for our children and our unwavering desire to remain informed and actively engaged in their lives,” one parent said. “Our intention is not to undermine anyone’s right or identity, but to ensure we as parents continue to play an active and informed role in our children’s lives.”
Those who opposed the policy argued that it could put LGBT students at risk if their parents are unsupportive.
"This is a harmful, disrespectful policy that hurts our children,” said another parent, who added that she has opted to pull her children out of the district’s schools and homeschool instead, “partially due to policies like this.”
“[Kids] deserve their own privacy to figure out who they are, and if they are not telling you as a parent who they are, that’s for a reason. Respect their choice to be themselves; do not take away space from them,” the parent said. “Outing children is hateful.”
Ms. Miner addressed some of the opposition’s concerns ahead of the vote, saying that if the child’s home life is unsafe, teachers as mandated reporters should have already reported the family to social services.
“If there is a problem with a bad parent, teachers are already mandated reporters, and they should connect with law enforcement if there is a legitimate concern about a child’s safety at home in any situation,” she said. “If a teacher is not willing to report a parent to law enforcement, then they already have a responsibility to communicate to parents as they would with bad grades, discipline issues in the class, and other concerns.”
Orange Unified’s decision came the day after a California judge issued a temporary restraining order to block Chino Valley Unified’s parent notification policy from taking effect at the request of State Attorney General Rob Bonta, who announced a lawsuit against the district over the policy on Aug. 28. The case will have its second hearing on Oct. 13.
Chino Valley Unified was the first among California school districts to enact such a policy, which it did in July.