Struggle Likely To Intensify Over School Policies In Respect of Transgender Students

‘No parent signs up to co-parent with the government,’ Virginia’s attorney general says.

AP/Erich Schlegel, file
A transgender rights protest at Austin, Texas, in March 2022. AP/Erich Schlegel, file

The struggle over parental notification when a child comes out as transgender in school is heating up on the street, at school boards, and in the courts, and as the school year gets under way, these fights are likely to intensify.

In blue states, school boards in more conservative areas are passing policies that require schools to notify parents when a child asks to be identified by a different gender or name, or to use facilities corresponding with the opposite sex. In red states, more liberal districts are trying to defy new policies requiring parental notification.

In Virginia, several school districts are vowing to defy Governor Youngkin’s new model policies regarding the treatment of transgender students that are set to go into effect this school year. These policies include limiting bathroom use and sports participation to biological sex, and require parental written approval before a student is referred to by a different gender or name than is on official records. 

These school districts and LGBTQ rights groups say the policies violate Title IX and federal and state anti-discrimination law. The state’s attorney general, Jason Miyares, disagrees. He issued on Thursday an official advisory opinion to the contrary.

The way Mr. Miyares put it is that the state’s model policies regarding transgender students “comply with the Equal Protection Clause, Title IX, and the Virginia Human Rights Act,” and that “local school boards are required to adopt policies that are consistent with them.”

“Parents, not government, are in the best position to work with their children on important life decisions, and no parent signs up to co-parent with the government,” Mr. Miyares said in a statement. “It’s not just common sense, it’s the law.”

Public schools at Alexandria City, William County, and Fairfax County, the state’s largest school district, say they will not comply. In an open letter to parents, students, and staff, Fairfax’s superintendent writes that her district will continue to make student “privacy respected regarding gender expansive or transgender status” and will continue to accommodate student use of facilities based on gender identity.

The fight is far from over. “These school districts will in fact comply with the law because it is the law and they don’t have a choice,” Mr. Youngkin told Fox News.  

In deep-blue California, the school board revolt is going in the opposite direction: more conservative areas are instituting policies to require parental notification, which the Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, and the state’s attorney general, Rob Bonta, strongly oppose.

Mr. Bonta opened a civil rights investigation into the Chino Valley Unified School District earlier this month after the school board passed a policy in July requiring schools to notify parents when a student asks to be identified as a different gender.

“Chino Valley Unified’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,” Mr. Bonta said in a statement announcing the investigation. “California will not stand for violations of our students’ civil rights.”

Chino Valley is not alone. The Murrieta Valley school board approved a similar parental notification policy earlier this month. The Orange Unified School District is also now debating a policy that would require written notification to parents within three school days after a child asks to be identified as a gender “other than the student’s biological sex or gender listed on the student’s birth certificate.”

The battle over this issue is spilling into the streets. Earlier this week, parental rights protestors clashed with LGBTQ activists at Los Angeles, resulting in three arrests. The parental rights protest started at City Hall, where about 200 people gathered and marched to the headquarters of the Los Angeles Unified School District, holding signs saying, “Parental rights are non-negotiable” and “Parental Rights Matter.” The counter-protesters decried parental notification as “outing” and called it a “hate-filled, fascist agenda of fear.”

Transgender policies in schools have become a flashpoint in deep-blue California. Violence erupted outside a school board meeting at Glendale in June over the district’s vote to officially recognize June as Pride Month. Mr. Newsom signed legislation last year making California a “sanctuary” for youth seeking transgender care. He has indicated he is open to a legislative fix to bar parental transgender notification policies, saying he “is working with legislative leaders” and that the “LGBT caucus has some language they’re working on.”

School boards in other blue states are also passing parental notification policies and facing roadblocks. In New Jersey, parental rights groups suffered a legal setback last week when a New Jersey state superior court judge temporarily blocked three school districts from enforcing new policies requiring parental notification when a child comes out as transgender or nonbinary.

The three districts in Monmouth County enacted these policies in June, but the Democratic attorney general, Matthew Platkin, sued to stop them. Mr. Platkin praised the temporary order as a “major victory for civil rights.” 

Parental notification, though, is widely popular in New Jersey. A Monmouth University poll released this week shows that 77 percent of Garden State residents think middle and high schools should be required to notify parents if a child comes out as a different gender than their natal sex. Among parents with minors, that number jumps to 81 percent.

The New York Sun

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