School districts in the Sacramento area of California are considering policies requiring schools to notify parents if their children claim to identify as transgender, despite California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s lawsuit challenging one such policy.
“Every school district in our area is considering such a policy,” Jonathan Zachreson, a member of the Roseville City School Board, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview Tuesday. He said Bonta’s legal action will not discourage school boards from upholding parental rights.
On Monday, the California attorney general sued the Los Angeles-area Chino Valley Unified School District, aiming to block its parental notification policy.
The policy, adopted in July, requires schools to inform parents whenever a student requests to be identified by a gender “other than the student’s biological sex or gender listed on the student’s birth certificate or any other official records.” This requirement applies to requests for a change in name or pronouns, and also requests to access sex-segregated school programs or facilities that don’t align with the student’s biological sex.
“Every student has the right to learn and thrive in a school environment that promotes safety, privacy, and inclusivity—regardless of their gender identity,” Bonta said in a press release announcing the lawsuit. “We’re in court challenging Chino Valley Unified’s forced outing policy for wrongfully and unconstitutionally discriminating against and violating the privacy rights of LGBTQ+ students.”
“The forced outing policy wrongfully endangers the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of non-conforming students who lack an accepting environment in the classroom and at home,” the attorney general argued. “Our message to Chino Valley Unified and all school districts in California is loud and clear: We will never stop fighting for the civil rights of LGBTQ+ students.”
The lawsuit claims that the Chino Valley district’s policy violates California’s equal protection clause by discriminating against certain students, that it violates the anti-discrimination provisions of the state’s Education and Government Code, and that it violates California’s constitutional right to privacy.
Andi Johnston, director of communications at the Chino Valley School District, told The Daily Signal that the district did not learn about the lawsuit until the media began to report it, and that the district also was the last to hear about the subpoena Bonta served its leadership earlier this month.
“Prior to the filing, district personnel had been working with complete transparency in providing Attorney General Bonta’s office with requested documents and records,” Johnston said. “Superintendent [Norm] Enfield spoke with the Justice Department’s legal counsel weekly to confirm the district was providing requested files, which had, in fact, changed several times from the original subpoena.”
“While it has been reported that the Parent Notification Policy and Chino Valley Unified School District wrongfully endanger the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of non-conforming students, past and current practices of the District solidify staff’s priority to provide all students with a safe and positive educational experience,” she added (emphasis original).
Johnston noted the district’s One-Stop-Shop, an online resource where students and families can submit harassment and bullying complaints. A section of the resource has been designated specifically for “LGBTQIA+ youth,” she added.
The district hosts four community forums each year to encourage student health, beginning with a Parent Information Forum on Aug. 23. It will host a Suicide Prevention Awareness meeting on Sept. 26.
Johnston noted that state guidance “does not provide specific language stating that school officials shall or must keep a student’s request for privacy from a parent/guardian regarding a change to their gender. Instead, broad statements are written that state disclosure to a parent/guardian may violate the student’s right to privacy” (emphasis original).
She also insisted that “the Parent Notification policy does protect transgender students and takes their safety extremely seriously.” The policy requires staff to notify child protective services or law enforcement “if the student or staff member believes the student is in danger or has been abused, injured, or neglected due to their parent or guardian knowing of their preferred gender identity. In these circumstances, CVUSD staff will not notify parents or guardians, but rather, wait for the appropriate agencies to complete their investigations regarding the concerns shared by the student.”
Zachreson said Bonta is “basically saying that parents are a danger to their kid.”
The Roseville City School Board member laments that “transgender kids are bullied at school, yet we’re going to keep that secret from parents? No one cares more about their kids than parents do.”
“They’re acting like parents are the enemy,” Zachreson noted. “It’s scary that that’s their state of mind.”
Zachreson insisted that Bonta’s position is “unpopular.”
“I think they’re trying the lawsuit route, because if they can stop them that way, it avoids the Legislature having to do this,” Zachreson said. “I think they’re trying to scare them—do you want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs?”
“I don’t think it will discourage most individual [school] board members,” he added.
Zachreson noted that many school boards in his area are considering parental notification policies, but the process moves slowly.
“It takes time for each school district to digest what these policies are really about, [asking,] ‘What does legal say?’” he explained.
After Bonta announced a civil rights investigation into the Chino Valley Unified School District, other school districts adopted similar parental notification policies. Bonta went on to condemn Anderson Union High School District, Temecula Unified School District, and Murrieta Valley Unified School District for their “copy-cat mandatory gender identity disclosure polic[ies] targeting transgender and gender nonconforming students.”
Zachreson, a parental rights advocate who founded Reopen California Schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, noted that California law doesn’t explicitly require or forbid parental notification, but “to me, it’s very clear in the law that parents have the right to know.”
“We have laws in California that say parents have a right to change student’s records and look into the classroom,” he said.
He noted the absurdity of suggesting that schools keep a student’s gender identity hidden from parents when parents have the right to access the classroom. “You’re not going to tell the parent, you’re just going to tell the whole class when the parent comes to observe. It’s absurd.”
Zachreson argued that Bonta aims to punish the Chino Valley Unified School District.
“Whoever is the first, they want to punish them,” he said.
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