About 200 parental rights demonstrators marched through downtown Los Angeles to protest secret gender transitions in California public schools on Aug. 22, 2023. (Courtesy of Hasmik Bezirdshyan)
The latest district to debate whether parents or guardians should be notified about their child’s wish to identity as a different gender is the Clovis Unified School District in Fresno, California.
At a school board meeting last month, community members and advocates for the LGBT community spoke against a form the district currently uses to gauge students’ needs for access to bathrooms and locker rooms.
The so-called Student Site Plan asks students for their legal and chosen names, preferred pronouns, sex at birth, and gender identity.
It also asks students about their programs and activities and asks them to indicate whether they prefer restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their birth sex, gender identity, or if they prefer to use a gender-neutral space like the nurse’s office.
The district also requires parents or guardians to be notified of the changes.
Dozens who oppose the plan said during public comment at the Sept. 20 board meeting that it could force LGBT students to come out to their parents before they’re ready or put the child in danger if their parents are unsupportive.
A school sign in a file photo in Orange, Calif., on Aug. 15, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
District officials, however, say the plan is in place to accommodate LGBT students while also complying with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which gives parents the right to access their child’s records.
However, students also have the right under a 2014 law to access school facilities consistent with their gender identity regardless of what’s listed on their school records, according to district spokesperson Kelly Avants.
Ms. Avants told The Epoch Times that the plan was introduced during the 2022-23 school year as an option “if a student is looking to change everything about their school experience through their gender identity.”
When the form was originally introduced, she said, it was called the “Gender Acknowledgement Plan,” and it didn’t require parent notification.
Ms. Avants said that the district has since updated the form to include parent notification, because of the privacy act law.
She noted that the state Department of Education issued guidance advising schools not to notify parents of their child’s wish to identify as transgender unless the child gives their consent.
California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond speaks at the State Capitol against California school districts’ parental notification policy for transgender students in Sacramento, Calif., on Aug. 29, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
“There is a lack of clarity between the federal laws and state laws. It’s putting school systems across the state of California in a very challenging place,” Ms. Avants said. “In our understanding, parents have the rights to student records. If you’re changing a student’s record, parents have the right to know.”
Ms. Avants also acknowledged the legal battles playing out surrounding a similar policy recently implemented in several districts across the state.
“Given that there are numerous lawsuits currently at play on this around our state, we are hopeful that the courts will be able to weigh in and provide some clarity sooner rather than later,” she said. “Legal battles can take years and I really hope they don’t leave school districts for a prolonged period of time having to navigate a situation that does seem to conflict with each other.”
California Attorney General Rob Bonta sued the Chino Valley Unified School District in August over their parent notification policy.
On Oct. 19, a San Bernardino County Superior Court judge tentatively granted the attorney general’s request for a preliminary injunction, saying the district can’t enforce the policy until its validity has been decided at trial.
The district was the first to enact such a policy in July. Since then, at least seven other California school districts have enacted similar policies: Murrieta Valley Unified, Temecula Valley Unified, the Anderson Union High School District, Rocklin Unified, Orange Unified, Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified, and Dry Creek Elementary Joint School District.
Capistrano Unified School District, however, became the first school board Oct. 18 to reject such a policy in a 4–2 vote.