TEMECULA, Calif.—The Temecula Valley Unified School Board became the latest California school district to pass a policy requiring schools to notify parents if their child wishes to identify as transgender.
The trustees voted 3–2 to approve the policy a little after midnight during a meeting that began at 6 p.m. on Aug. 22.
The board’s conservative majority—President Joseph Komrosky and trustees Jennifer Wiersma and Danny Gonzalez—voted to approve the policy, while trustees Steven Schwartz and Allison Barclay voted against it.
The new rule requires schools to notify parents in writing within three days if their child identifies as transgender, is involved in violence, or communicates thoughts of suicide and is based on a similar policy recently enacted by two other districts in southern California: the Chino Valley Unified and the Murrieta Valley Unified.
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.
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.
Mr. Komrosky, who introduced the policy along with Ms. Wiersma, said ahead of the vote that he believed in parents’ right to be involved in their children’s lives.
“Parents love their children and feel passionately about them ... and with rare exception, parents will always love their children more and deeper than any other adult, including a trusted teacher,” he said. “No one is more important to the mental health of a child than their own parents. Separating children from their parents does them psychological harm and causes a great deal of stress.”
Mr. Gonzalez agreed, saying parents, not the schools, are the ones responsible for their children’s well-being.
“Your kids do not belong to the government. We do not co-parent with the district,” Mr. Gonzalez said. “[The district] should offer support, resources, and anything else needed to facilitate the success of our students, and you, the parent, are fundamental in this effort.”
Those who opposed the policy argued that it could put LGBT students at risk if their parents are unsupportive.
“There are parents out there who are not loving parents,” Mr. Schwartz, one of the trustees, said.
Public commenters who oppose the policy echoed Mr. Schwartz’s sentiment.
“By notifying a parent or guardian of a student’s identity, it can sever any trust a parent or child may have had in each other,” said one speaker, who identified as a transgender woman and claimed to be a former Temecula Valley student. “Someone’s coming out should be an act of comfortability and love, not forced prematurely without consent.”
The speaker said he had friends abused by their families in response to their coming out as LGBT and others who have committed suicide “to escape the bigotry that was pushed on them.”
Supporters of the policy said the matter should be between children and parents, who they said are irreplaceable.
“Parents and families have been uniquely positioned to help comfort and protect their own children,” a Temecula resident said during public comment. “As well-intentioned as government bureaucrats might be, they can never replace parents in the moral formation of their own children.”
In response to the opposing argument that the policy might endanger students, he added that schools can already report abusive family situations under state law.
“You cannot assume a hypothetical worst-case scenario because of isolated, anecdotal examples of parents getting mad,” he said. “And in the unlikely scenario that abuse does exist, current policy and state law already mandate controls in place to address those risks head-on, like reporting requirements and engagements of authorities.”
“The rise in school districts adopting policies that target California’s vulnerable [LGBT] student population is of grave concern,” Bonta stated. “My office is closely monitoring the situation and will not tolerate districts compromising the safety and privacy of transgender and gender nonconforming students. We will remain committed to ensuring school policies do not violate students’ civil rights.”
Meanwhile, the Anderson Union High School District—located in Shasta County in Northern California—voted 4–1 to approve the same policy.
Anderson Union’s trustees weren’t immediately available for comment.
Another southern California district, Orange Unified, also introduced the policy for discussion at an Aug. 17 meeting and will vote on it on Sept. 7.