Many citizens in our community are deeply concerned about district policies that authorize and encourage school staff to come between parents and their own children.
The Gender Support Guidelines are VERY carefully worded to achieve the following objectives:
- To make it difficult for any single sentence in the plan to appear inculpatory.
- To provide broad discretion for school staff to work with children on monumental life decisions, like gender transition, while hiding knowledge of this work from parents.
Here is the pertinent passage:
Some transgender students have not talked to their parents about their gender identity and/or do not want their parents to know about their transgender status based on safety concerns or concerns about a lack of acceptance. The school principal or their designee should speak with the student first to ascertain concerns the student may have, what support may be needed to keep the student safe at school, and how to involve the student’s parents, if at all.
This paragraph implies that some students who are changing their gender identity have parents who may not support this change. This is a perfectly reasonable notion.
What's not reasonable, is to decide that school staff have the authority to ascertain the situation (decide whether or not they think parents should know what is happening with their own child), and then take action on their judgment (hide actions relating to their child from parents).
We have an entire branch of government called the Judiciary whose purpose is to "ascertain" and then take action based on DUE PROCESS.
It's true, and very sad, that "lack of support" might be an understatement for what some children experience in their families as they work through their gender identity. How some parents might treat their children who are experiencing gender dysphoria may be tantamount to abuse, or worse.
Abuse is a crime. Teachers and school administrators are not social workers, police investigators, district attorneys, judges, or sheriff deputies.
From the Gender Support Guidelines:
It's absurd to think that teachers and school administrators can be tasked with "ascertaining" whether or not parents are supportive of their child's gender transition. But it's completely ludicrous to think that ANYONE, even an experienced social services investigator, could ever make this kind of judgment of parents solely based on a child saying, "I do not want my parents to know about this."
Yet, that's exactly what this policy does:
- It turns school staff into social workers by asking them to work between children and their parents.
- It turns school staff into police investigators who must find out if parents are supportive of their child's decisions and actions.
- It turns school staff into judges who get to decide whether or not to include parents in the most consequential decision their child may ever make.
All of this occurs with zero due process.
It's a tragic situation in our society when parents abuse or neglect their children. It's true that, in many cases, schools and classrooms are the places where abuse is detected and reported. Teachers and school staff should be absolutely supported in watching for signs of abuse. These concerns should always be reported to the proper authorities.
The proper authorities (social services, child protective services, and the police) are trained and authorized to step in, investigate, and take action. District attorneys and judges can indict and prosecute neglectful or abusive parents. And in a court of law, parents can face accusations and evidence against them according to our justice system.
Why would this process be any different for accusations of lack of support (or abuse) related to gender transition?
Could a teacher help a child change their religion in secret? What if the child wanted to change their religion and the parents were not supportive of a change? May school staff step in and help them change their religion at school?
What about a nose piercing? Or a tattoo? If a parent is not supportive of these things, can a teacher decide to enable them at school and in secret?
From the Gender Support Guidelines:
Staff should be mindful that parents of minor children have rights under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act to inspect records maintained by the school that are related to their children.
From the Gender Support Plan:
By law, OCS cannot create a written gender support plan or other written record student that is confidential from the student’s parent/guardian (“parent” in this context is defined in Board Policy 4700). Therefore, if a student’s parent does not know or is not supportive, it may be preferable to not complete this form and instead provide other types of support to the student
Astonishingly, this policy literally instructs school staff to circumvent laws in order to undermine the obvious intent of those very laws, which is to keep parents informed about what schools are doing with their children.
What should be done?
OCCIE is committed to doing our part to have a positive impact:
We're tracking and disseminating this information. Raising awareness of these policies, in and of itself, can have a profound impact on outcomes.
We're sharing ideas and solutions for our community to consider. In the coming months, OCCIE will publish new analyses and proposals for policies and systems improvements, as well as suggestions for direct action by citizens to help enact change for the better.