Schools across the country routinely inform parents—and often must obtain their written permission—about all sorts of things, from a trip to the zoo to taking a Tylenol.  

A field trip might make Johnny’s day, and a Tylenol might make his headache go away, but they won’t profoundly change the way he understands the world or the entire trajectory of his life.  

If gender activists have their way, however, parents will be shut out of efforts to turn Johnny into Janie.  

According to the database maintained by Parents Defending Education, 1,060 school districts in 38 states and the District of Columbia have formal policies for treating students of any age consistent with their “gender identity” and for withholding that information from parents.  

Those districts include more than 18,000 schools attended by nearly 11 million students—and the list is growing steadily.  

A school in Wisconsin, for example, began treating a 12-year-old girl as a boy behind her parents’ backs. Her parents eventually found out and sued when the school refused to stop even over their objections.  

Last October, a judge blocked the school district’s policy.  

“The School District could not administer medicine to a student without parental consent,” the court observed, or “require or allow a student to participate in a sport without parental consent.” 

The court concluded, therefore, that “the School District cannot change the pronoun of a student without parental consent without impinging on a fundamental liberty interest of the parents.”  

In the Escondido, California, Union School District, administrative staff adopted a policy that a student’s “assertion of their gender identity,” by itself, requires school personnel to “begin to treat the student immediately, consistently with that gender identity. The student’s assertion is enough.”  

The list of “individuals who do not have a legitimate need for the information” included parents. Under the policy, “a student’s consent to reveal gender information is required, regardless of the age of the student.” (Emphasis added.)

Two teachers sued, arguing that requiring them, in effect, to lie to parents about this matter violated their rights to free speech and the exercise of their religion. A federal judge concluded that the policy violated the right of parents, repeatedly recognized by the Supreme Court, “to direct the education, health, and upbringing, and to maintain the well-being of, their children.” 

Similar lawsuits have been filed in states from Massachusetts to Florida, Maryland to Kansas. The proliferation of these “gender identity” policies, and litigation challenging them, has only just begun. 

The centerpiece of these policies is taking a student’s “assertion of gender identity” at face value and treating it as conclusive. 

They do not, however, define what counts as such an assertion. Is it limited to a definitive, bold declaration or a formal request to be referred to by a certain name or pronouns? Juveniles are likely less familiar with subjects such as sex and gender than many others. They may not know what they are experiencing, let alone have much ability to communicate with others about it. 

These are significant and sensitive issues, the kind that parents are not only in the best position to address, but that parents have the right to do.  

These policies do not address curriculum or school administration. Courts have held that parents’ right to direct the upbringing of their children do not extend that far. No, these policies are about matters that are squarely on the parents’ side of that line. They impose the schools’ gender ideology upon students and parents, potentially destroying family relationships and changing lives forever. 

During the 2021-22 school year, acting on nothing more than a seventh grader’s email to a school counselor, personnel at East Rockford Middle School in Kent County, Michigan, began treating her as a boy. They deliberately concealed the situation from the girl’s parents, even altering school records that the parents might see.  

They found out only because someone cleansing those records missed an altered pronoun and, yes, they sued. 

The principle that parents have the right to direct the upbringing, care, and education of their children has philosophical and legal roots dating back centuries. In a 2000 decision, then-Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote for the Supreme Court that “the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children” is “perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court.”  

If that is to mean anything in the future, parents must take action now to force school districts to change such policies, to urge state legislatures to prohibit them, and, if necessary, to defend their rights in court.