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Parental Rights Groups Accuse State of ‘Sexualizing’ Children 

Parental Rights Groups Accuse State of ‘Sexualizing’ Children 

Assemblyman Bill Essayli speaks at a press conference outside the California state Capitol in Sacramento on Aug. 14, 2023. (Courtesy of California Family Council)

Brad Jones

Brad Jones

8/18/2023

Updated: 8/22/2023

A coalition of parental rights groups gathered outside the California state Capitol in Sacramento Aug. 14 to protest several legislative bills they claim will strip parents of their constitutional rights to raise their children as they see fit without state interference.
At the press conference, the coalition claimed California Gov. Gavin Newsom and his administration aim to sexualize children through its public school policies, curricula, and inappropriate books available to young students.
The coalition contends that Tony Thurmond, state superintendent of public schools, Attorney General Rob Bonta, and the governor are silencing parents and quashing local control by interfering in school board decisions on policies that are supposed to reflect community values.
California Assemblyman Bill Essayli (R-Corona) told reporters that Assembly Bill 1078, (AB 1078), authored by Corey Jackson (D-Perris) and Assemblyman Alex Lee (D-Milpitas), would give the state more power to control local school boards and curricula, and is an unconstitutional attack on parental rights.
The bill would require the California Department of Education to review local school board policies and assess whether they comply with state laws that decree public schools must provide students with “comprehensive, culturally competent, and accurate instruction about the history, experiences, and viewpoints of people from different communities in California,” according to the bill text. It would also require a two-thirds supermajority vote by a school board to reject a book.
“The radical Democrat agenda in the state of California has declared war on parents and their children and the sacred relationship that they share,” Mr. Essayli said. “I stand with these parents today to reaffirm that children are the domain of their parents. They do not belong to the state of California, and they sure as hell don’t belong to any political party.”
Mr. Essayli said at the 40-minute press conference—which drew about 50 supporters—such legislation would likely be struck down by the courts as unconstitutional.
Assemblyman Bill Essayli speaks at a press conference outside the California state Capitol in Sacramento on Aug. 14, 2023. (Courtesy of California Family Council)

Assemblyman Bill Essayli speaks at a press conference outside the California state Capitol in Sacramento on Aug. 14, 2023. (Courtesy of California Family Council)

“So, we welcome this fight,” he said. “We want the public to know what your agenda is, and we want to run on this in the next election.”
In February, Mr. Essayli introduced AB 1314, which he calls a “common sense” bill that would have required school districts to notify parents within three days if their child changes their gender identity at school.
The legislation aims to counter a California Department of Education policy instructing school districts to keep gender transitions secret from parents or guardians.
“They did that with no legal authority, with no Supreme Court precedent. They just did it. And, they don’t want to have a conversation about it,” he said.
But, his bill was killed before it was heard in committee.
“You could shut me up. But you cannot shut up the people of the state of California,” he said, referring to fellow lawmakers opposing his proposal.
Mr. Essayli has since urged school boards across California to pass parental notification policies.
The Chino Valley Unified School District was the first in the state to approve a policy similar to Mr. Essayli’s bill requiring school staff to tell parents if their child identifies as a gender different than the sex listed on their birth certificate.
Since then, another district, Murrieta Valley Unified, has followed Chino Valley’s lead. Two other districts, Orange Unified and Temecula Valley Unified, are considering the policy in their upcoming meetings.
Sonja Shaw, president of Chino Valley Unified, speaks at a press conference outside the California state Capitol in Sacramento on Aug. 14, 2023. (Courtesy of California Family Council)

Sonja Shaw, president of Chino Valley Unified, speaks at a press conference outside the California state Capitol in Sacramento on Aug. 14, 2023. (Courtesy of California Family Council)

Sonja Shaw, president of Chino Valley Unified, said at the press conference the school board majority for years wouldn’t push back against the state’s efforts “to sexualize our innocent children,” but that changed during state-imposed COVID-19 lockdowns when parents got a closer look at what their children were learning in school.
“When the world shut down, it was a gift because we saw firsthand what Sacramento politicians were doing. The message was clear—their goal was to break up the family unit and to take control of our children,” she said.
Since then, she said, parents have been showing up at school board meetings across America and protesting against what many see as indoctrination into “woke” transgender ideology.
“There are thousands of Californians and millions across the nation that have joined us, and they will continue to join us,” she said.
Allie Snyder, a supporter of the organization Our Duty and a mom whose 10- and 12-year-old boys were asked their preferred pronouns on the first day of school last year, displayed a book titled “This Book is Gay,” which she said her son found on display in the school library.
“There is nothing kind or inclusive about trying to convince children it’s possible to be born in the wrong body,” Ms. Snyder said. “Gender ideology tells boys who like dresses that maybe they were meant to be girls so they should take puberty blockers which stunt them, wrong sex hormones that sterilize them, and surgeries that make them medical patients for life.”
The book—which the Newsom administration defended, among other rejected books, in a June 1 letter to the California School Boards Association—teaches children how to get on sex apps and perform sex acts, according to Ms. Snyder.
Allie Snyder, a supporter of the organization Our Duty and a parent, speaks at a press conference outside the California state Capitol in Sacramento on Aug. 14, 2023. (Courtesy of California Family Council)

Allie Snyder, a supporter of the organization Our Duty and a parent, speaks at a press conference outside the California state Capitol in Sacramento on Aug. 14, 2023. (Courtesy of California Family Council)

“This book has nothing to do with being gay, and everything to do with grooming children,” she said, pointing out examples of explicit sexual content in the book. “This has got to end and we’re going to end it. Gender ... is a front for a gender medical industry making billions of dollars worldwide off of the decimation of healthy bodies [of] children and vulnerable adults.”
Other parents at the protest also described examples of sexually graphic content contained in materials aimed at minors.
Nicole Pearson, a mother of three, attorney and founder of Facts Law Truth Justice—a civil rights organization and constitutional law firm—urged parents during the press conference to pay attention to the bills moving through the Legislature.
The parental rights coalition provided its explanation of what the following bills might achieve should they be passed by state lawmakers:
• AB 1078 would allow the state to “dictate” school curriculum “regardless of whether it is scientifically accurate or age-appropriate or fits the local community’s values or needs.”
• AB 5 would require school staff to be trained on LGBT issues, transitioning students, and how to hide students’ gender identity from parents.
• AB 1352 would remove control of local boards from communities and allow board members to remove each other without due or democratic processes.
• AB 957 would give preference in custody proceedings to the parent who affirms the child’s self-selected gender identity, and defines “health, safety and welfare” as including affirmation, regardless of the child’s age, persistence, or any other physical, psychological or emotional need.
• AB 665 would allow children to leave their homes and self-consent into government residential shelters without their parents’ or guardians’ consent or knowledge. Currently, the law only allows children to leave their homes if there is proof of abuse, incest, or danger. The bill would also “essentially legally emancipate minors as young as 12 without any evidence that the parent is unfit and worthy of having his/her parental rights terminated.”
• Senate Bill 596 would criminalize parents and concerned citizens with up to $1,000 in fines and jail time who disrupt school board meetings or harass teachers, other school staff, or district officials in verbal, written, or electronic communication. The coalition contends there are already laws on the books that protect anyone from harassment, threats, and stalking.
Ms. Pearson said lawmakers like state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Assemblywoman Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City)—who have led the push for “gender-affirming care” legislation—are promoting the theory that tells children they can be “born in the wrong body” and targeting parents who don’t believe it through legislation.
Both the U.S. Constitution and the Supreme Court recognize parental authority as a fundamental liberty, she suggested, so California legislators will face an uphill legal battle if they try to undermine their rights.
The California state Capitol in Sacramento on April 18, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

The California state Capitol in Sacramento on April 18, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

“These legislators are going to face a fight,” she said. “We have got to fight because if we lose our kids, we lose everything.”
Tara Thornton, a co-founder of Freedom Angels, a human and civil rights organization, said the national media spotlight is on California because people of every demographic and political persuasion are mobilizing locally to build networks to protect children, she said.
She said Mr. Bonta’s “civil rights investigation” into Chino Valley’s parental notification policy was “to intimidate school boards and alienate children from their parents.”
“Students should never fear going to school for simply being who they are,” Mr. Bonta stated in an Aug. 4 press release announcing the investigation, citing concerns about “potential legal violations.”
He said in the release the school district’s “forced outing policy threatens the safety and well-being of LGBTQ+ students vulnerable to harassment and potential abuse from peers and family members unaccepting of their gender identity.”
Ms. Thornton additionally told The Epoch Times Aug. 15 the language of AB 1078, which concerns school curriculum, misled the public about the bill’s intent to “take away local control” and usurp parental authority.
Denise Aguilar, also a co-founder of Freedom Angels, said she doesn’t want to lose the right to approach her local school board about issues that affect her child’s education and worries that if state lawmakers pass AB 1078 she won’t have a voice or any option but homeschooling.
She said the state has failed children, most of whom are reading below grade level, as they are “pushed through school” with little support and few real-world skills such as math and reading comprehension.
“We will not stand by silently as our kids are used as pawns for political office. ... We are sending a clear message to leave our kids alone, and that is not a request,” she said.
Ms. Aguilar also said parents like her have been unfairly attacked for opposing the legislation.
“It’s a lot of gaslighting that parents are [white] rightwing Christian nationalists. I’m Mexican,” she said.
California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks as his wife Jennifer Siebel Newsom looks on at a press conference in Sacramento on Aug. 14, 2023. (California Governor Gavin Newsom/YouTube Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks as his wife Jennifer Siebel Newsom looks on at a press conference in Sacramento on Aug. 14, 2023. (California Governor Gavin Newsom/YouTube Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

‘California Family Agenda’

Meanwhile, the governor held a press conference on Aug. 14 to highlight “California’s Family Agenda” and education “transformation.”
When asked about the parental rights protest earlier that day, he denied the state has sexualized children in its education policies.
“I’m not aware of any efforts to sexualize the curriculum. ... I don’t know what they’re referring to. Is it the notion if you reference someone being gay that somehow that’s sexualizing our kids? Is that the case with straight people as well?” he said. “It’s Orwellian doublespeak or it’s just so profoundly ignorant that they’ve been ginned up by outside agitators.”
Mr. Newsom dismissed parental rights groups as “a few people [with] loud voices” who are trying to deny the rights of other parents, families, and children.
While he acknowledged California statutes support local control, Mr. Newsom said local control doesn’t mean breaking well-established, inclusive laws.
He also claimed the groups are “protesting parental engagement” and accused them of misleading parents, saying freedom isn’t found in fear-mongering but in “social progress.”
“We’re talking about freedom to speak, freedom to teach, not bringing a chilling effect where fear and anxiety are dominating. That’s not freedom,” he said.
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Brad Jones

Brad Jones

Author

Brad Jones is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California.

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