An email unearthed by parents at an Indiana high school has revealed a districtwide support plan for students undergoing gender transition and a policy to withhold and hide information from students’ parents.
An Aug. 16 email sent by a counselor at Pendleton Heights High School in Pendleton, Indiana, informed teachers that a student had changed genders, provided new pronouns, and said teachers should not inform the student’s parents because they were “not supportive of the decision.”
The school counselor’s email concluded by telling teachers that if the student wanted to talk, she was to be sent to one of two counselors.
It’s not yet clear what grades or ages in K-12 instruction are covered by the school district’s policy. This particular email from a high school counselor, however, infuriated local parents and teachers.
Jason Payne, a parent with a child in that school district, South Madison Community School Corporation, told The Daily Signal in a text: “If staff at South Madison are willing to lie to parents about this—what else are they willing to lie about? How can I be assured my kid is safe while he’s at Pendleton if they can’t be trusted to be honest with me?”
This is not a unique circumstance, either. Over the last two years, dozens of “Gender Support Plans” with guidelines not to contact parents have been sent to teachers across the South Madison school district headquartered in Pendleton, counselor Kathy McCord confirmed.
Amanda Keegan, a geography and psychology teacher at Pendleton Heights High School, says she resigned in part to protest this policy.
In an exclusive interview with The Daily Signal, Keegan said, “When I had to look at that parent, and feel like I was lying to that parent … I was sick to my stomach. I can’t lie to parents. I can’t do that again.”
Keegan also said that neither she nor other teachers had ever seen an official Gender Support Plan, whether in blank or completed form, and that she had received emails from counselors only when they were asking her to hide information from parents.
Keegan expressed distress that the school district would ask her to step between a parent and child, recalling how sick she felt when speaking with a parent who had no idea her child was on a Gender Support Plan.
The counselor who sent the Aug. 16 email, Kathy McCord, agreed to go on the record with The Daily Signal to discuss both the email she was required to send to Keegan and the South Madison district’s policies on Gender Support Plans and their origin.
McCord said she and other counselors have access to such plans, but teachers, parents, and the public do not—which she strongly disagrees with. McCord insisted that she and a few other counselors despise this district policy, describing it as both dishonest and harmful.
McCord confirmed that the school district is using the same Gender Support Plan that The Daily Signal obtained in blank form from a source who asked to remain anonymous. Here it is in full:
McCord told The Daily Signal that this Gender Support Plan, modeled on a document at Hamilton Southeastern Schools, a school district in Fishers, Indiana, has been the policy of the South Madison school district since fall of 2021.
Before that, McCord said, if a student approached a teacher or counselor and asked to be called by a different name, the school would call the student’s parents to confirm this desire and decision. Now, the South Madison district requires only that the student say that his or her parents don’t or wouldn’t approve, and the district is obliged to hide the information from parents.
Finally, McCord and another counselor who wished to remain anonymous confirmed that Andrew Kruer, the assistant superintendent in charge of the counseling department, told counseling staff that this gender support policy was “board-approved.”
McCord said that before The Daily Signal’s investigation, she had assumed that since it was a policy approved by the school board, it must have been public knowledge as with any other policy.
South Madison school board member Kaye Wolverton has denied Kruer’s justification, stating that the board members were aware of no such policy. The rest of the seven-member school board have yet to respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.
The Gender Support Plan doesn’t appear on any South Madison website, and no reference to this supposed “board-approved” policy exists in any of the website’s documents.
In the online document obtained by The Daily Signal and authenticated by McCord, the document history shows that Kruer was the last person to edit the form, titled “SMCSC Student Gender Support Plan.”
At a public comment session on Nov. 17, Schools Superintendent Mark Hall was asked by parent Melissa Krieg what South Madison’s policy was regarding supporting gender transition. Hall’s response was that the school district followed “state law,” Krieg told The Daily Signal.
Indiana law (§ 20-28-10-17) states that school counselors are immune from “disclosing privileged or confidential communication,” but doesn’t give counselors the authority to diagnose or treat gender dysphoria. McCord and other counselors told The Daily Signal the current South Madison policy requires counselors to do so.
No state or federal law or ruling appears to give a public school the ability to implement any kind of medical or social-emotional learning plan without informing the parent or custodial guardian of the child in question.
The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act requires schools to grant a parent access to any part of a student’s record.
Several questions arise as to whether the South Madison district is asking school counselors to make decisions regarding parental custody (by determining what information the parent is and isn’t worthy to know) or medical diagnosis and treatment (in case of gender dysphoria, body dysmorphia, etc.).
Both Keegan and McCord told The Daily Signal that they neither are qualified to determine what information a parent should know, nor qualified to diagnose or treat students who potentially suffer from gender dysphoria. Both expressed dismay with South Madison’s policy, suggesting that they and many colleagues believe nothing should be hidden from parents in any circumstance.
This policy of keeping student information from Indiana parents isn’t unique, though. Several schools across Indiana have these types of policies: Hamilton Southeastern Schools, Carmel Clay Schools, Noblesville Schools, and Indianapolis Public Schools all have plans in place that require staff to use student-chosen names and pronouns—none of which requires staff to inform parents.
This practice has become more commonplace around the country as well. In Minnesota, a school gave students a survey asking whether to conceal gender changes from parents. Parents Defending Education reports that schools in Florida, Colorado, Michigan, and Iowa operate with similar gender support policies.
In all of these cases, the determining factor in informing parents is whether the student thinks parents will be supportive. The policy doesn’t require an assessment of the decision as good or bad, nor an assessment of the mental health of the student.
If the student doesn’t want his parents to know, the school bows to those wishes—compelling the speech of counselors and teachers in the process.
In the counselor’s email ordered by Kruer’s policy, teachers are told to refer the student to a counselor if the student needs “to talk to someone.”
If the school is closed or staff is unavailable, who does the student call? When a psychiatrist isn’t available, for instance, patients normally have an alternate number to call.
Given the increased risk of suicide among students suffering from gender dysphoria, one only can imagine the horror of calling parents to inform them that their child, struggling with something intentionally hidden by the school from the parents, had committed suicide.
Could the parents, the ones who know the most about the medical and mental history of the child, have done something to prevent such a tragedy? No one will be able to answer.
One answer is clear about these gender transition policies: Schools are stating that they know better than parents—and they’re willing to be condescendingly dishonest in the process.
In the case of Indiana’s South Madison school district, why do Hall and his assistant superintendent, Kruer, believe it’s necessary to hide their Gender Support Plan from teachers and parents.
If this is a beneficial tool for students, why not post it alongside other resources on the school district’s website?
Why provide completed plans to a counselor—but not the student’s teachers? School districts routinely provide documentation to teachers regarding support plans for students with medical or alternative learning needs. Why not these Gender Support Plans too?
If a “transitioning” student transfers to another school, is it the responsibility of a counselor to contact that next school and inform its team of the student’s new gender and personal pronouns?
This situation has all of the hallmarks of a hastily produced policy built to preen and posture politically at the expense of both parents and students.
Wolverton, the school board member, told The Daily Signal that South Madison’s legal counsel had advised Hall and Kruer to refrain from answering any questions from The Daily Signal.
School board President Joel Sandefur refused to provide comment to The Daily Signal.
Neither Hall nor Kruer had responded to The Daily Signal’s requests for comment by publication time.
Have an opinion about this article? To sound off, please email letters@DailySignal.com and we’ll consider publishing your edited remarks in our regular “We Hear You” feature. Remember to include the url or headline of the article plus your name and town and/or state.