Orange Unified School District became the latest school district in California to require school officials to notify parents if their children are transgender — a policy that’s being increasingly adopted by school boards throughout the Golden State.

On Thursday, Orange Unified school board majority members voted to adopt the notification policy, with Board President Rick Ledesma arguing the move is a reaction against the state taking away parental rights.

“I warn parents, current parents and anyone that is thinking of being a parent in the future in the state of California — protect your children,” he said.

Board member Madison Miner, who proposed the policy, said she did “not want blood” on her hands, pointing to a high suicide rate in transgender youth.

“Minor children do not have privacy rights from their children from their parents. The bigger ethical issue is teaching children to lie to their parents,” Miner said. “I want to help parents keep their potentially suicidal child safe.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta is taking a hard look at such policies, even getting an injunction against a similar parental notification in Chino Valley Unified School District.

Bonta has condemned the policies, most recently the one approved at the Rocklin Unified School District in Placer County.

“I have said it before and I will say it again: We will not tolerate any policy that perpetuates discrimination, harassment, or exclusion within our educational institutions,” Bonta said in a Thursday news release about the decision at the Rocklin district.

Board member Andrea Yamasaki said at the beginning of Thursday’s meeting that Bonta sent an email to the board between closed session at 5:30 p.m. and open session of the meeting at 7 p.m. claiming he would not hesitate to take action to protect student civil rights.

Efforts to table the issue by board members Kris Erickson, Ana Page and Yamasaki narrowly failed Thursday night.

“For us to set ourselves up to be dragged into a lawsuit when the court is going to hear this in just over a month is irresponsible. The Attorney General has said he will sue other districts if necessary. Let’s not make that necessary,” Erickson said.

Ledesma said Bonta has other responsibilities to focus on.

“As to Attorney General Bonta, I say you have bigger fish to fry in terms of the crime rate in the State of California than working on your politicizing at the school board level,” Ledesma said during the meeting.

But critics said that’s what Ledesma and the board majority are doing: politicizing school districts.

Kathy Moffat, a previous board member, spoke out against the policy and questioned the board majority’s ethics.

“This new board majority has cynically pandered to the most extreme elements in the current divisive culture wars,” Moffat said at the meeting. “Accepting their tainted PAC money and now being the puppets of those PACs.” 

The board majority’s decision came after over three hours of public comment — which was disrupted and halted at one point with people chanting “leave our kids alone” and some walking around the boardroom with their phones out filming. 

Reporters at the meeting were restricted to one spot with a Voice of OC photographer told by private security hired by the school district she could not move out of a penned area. 

Board members Erickson, Yamasaki and Page did not return to the meeting after the disruption.

“During the chaos, direct threats were made to trustees in the minority and the crowd was getting increasingly aggressive. There was no crowd control and I felt that the personal safety of my colleagues and myself was compromised,” Yamasaki said in a text message late Thursday night. 

She added that she is concerned that the policy will impact LGBTQ students’ privacy.

“My concern is that a one size fits all policy doesn’t take into consideration the environment of the home. Children need time to process and outing them within two days, before they are ready, could be harmful and robs them of the opportunity to communicate with their parents on their own time,” she wrote.

The three opposed the policy when it was first proposed during last month’s school board meeting. 

“I have three concerns: one is the targeting and discrimination of trans and nonbinary students,” Erickson said at the Aug. 17 meeting. “Two is the high likelihood of expensive litigation that I think will come from this, and three is the blatant government interference in the family unit that this mandates.”

[Read: Orange Unified School District Considers Notifying Parents of Transgender Students]

The approved notification policy requires schools to alert parents if they discover the student identifies as transgender — including students who ask to use a different name or pronoun other than what is associated with their biological sex. 

Notification will also be required if a student asks to participate in a sex-segregated activity — like a sport — that does not align with their biological sex.

The approved version of the policy would require teachers to first notify a principal or school counselor within two days of discovering the student’s identity. Principals would then be required to alert parents within five school days.

If the student is over 12 years old, the principal or counselor must first determine if parental disclosure is a safety risk to the student.

The item first came before the school board on Aug. 17, but no formal vote was taken at the meeting.

[Read: Orange Unified School District Considers Notifying Parents of Transgender Students]

Policy Sparks Intense Debate

On Thursday, parents, residents and other community members spoke mostly in support of the policy — arguing that parents have a right to know if their children identify as transgender and the district should stand up to the state.

Orange County Board of Education Trustee Mari Barke spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting in support of the policy.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently ruled for the last century that parents, not schools, possess the fundamental right to raise their children and to direct the activities and make decisions regarding their children’s care and to control their education,” Barke said.

“Parental rights are among the basic civil rights of man.”

The county school board in April supported a failed state bill introduced by California Assemblymember Bill Essayli that would require schools to notify parents if their child is transgender, which sparked pushback.

Essayli also showed up to the Orange Unified meeting Thursday night to argue that schools have no authority to withhold information from parents.

Protestors outside of the Orange Unified School District Board of Education Meeting on Sept. 7, 2023. Credit: ERIKA TAYLOR, Voice of OC

Others spoke against the policy, arguing that kids deserve their own privacy and that the policy could endanger transgender and nonbinary children.

“For those who are in support of this policy and its different forms, you’re saying that you are for bullying of gender diverse kids, even if it’s at the hands of their own parents,” said Uyen Hoang, executive director of Viet Rainbow Orange County.

“No amount of revisions to this policy will hide your transphobia.”

State Senators Tom Umberg and Josh Newman sent staffers to speak at the meeting against the policy on their behalf. 

Umberg argued that the policy would out and harm students and possibly cause them to be rejected by their families. 

Newman argued that the policy will discourage students from expressing their identity at school and diminish their trust in the district.

A Local Increase in LGBTQ+ Hate

OC Human Relations Commission’s annual hate crime report released last September shows an 83% increase in hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community in 2021. Hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community have increased by 2,100% since 2017, according to the commission.

In a Thursday news release, Bonta’s office points to a 2015 survey that shows that 15% of respondents ran away or were kicked out of their homes because they were transgender, and 10% of respondents reported they faced violence from family members because they were transgender.

“Research shows that protecting a transgender student’s ability to make choices about how and when to inform others is critical to their well-being, as transgender students are exposed to high levels of harassment and mistreatment at school and in their communities when those environments are not supportive of their gender identity,” reads the release.

Bonta’s office also states 77% “of students known or perceived as transgender reported negative experiences such as harassment and assault, and over half of transgender and nonbinary youth reported seriously considering suicide in the past year.”

Protesters gathered outside the Orange Unified School District board of education meeting on Sept. 7, 2023. Credit: ERIKA TAYLOR, Voice of OC.

Will More School Districts Follow Suit? 

Despite legal threats from Bonta, school boards across California have been passing similar transgender parental notification policies in rapid succession this summer, leading state officials to try and intervene.

Anderson Union High School District in Shasta County, Murrieta Valley Unified School District and Temecula Valley Unified School District — both in Riverside County — voted on this issue earlier this summer.

The Chino Valley School District in San Bernardino County was the first to approve the policy in July, quickly gaining attention from Bonta, who initially sent a letter warning against the item on the board’s agenda. It passed 4-1 anyway on July 20. 

Afterward, Bonta opened a civil rights investigation against the school board and filed a lawsuit, claiming the policy discriminated against transgender students and put them in harm’s way. 

State Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurmond spoke out against the policy at a Chino Valley School Board meeting and was thrown out of the meeting

Most recently, a San Bernardino Superior Court judge ruled in favor of a temporary injunction against the Chino Valley School Board, which effectively prevents the district from enforcing the policy until the court case is resolved.

A spokesperson from Bonta’s office declined to answer if other school districts will get roped into the existing litigation.

It’s not the first time Orange Unified has waded into controversy.

In June, Orange Unified school board members adopted a parental rights policy that grants parents and guardians public access to curriculum and instructional materials. 

[Read: Orange Unified School Board Adopts Parental Rights Policy; Bans Pride Flag]

The board also banned flying the LGBTQ+ Pride flag and other banners on district flagpoles, restricting it to the U.S. and California flags.

Angelina Hicks is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact her at or on Twitter @angelinahicks13.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.


Since you’ve made it this far,

You obviously care about local news and value good journalism. As an independent and local nonprofit, our news is accessible to all, regardless of what they can afford, but it’s not free to produce. Help us become 100% reader funded with a tax deductible donation. For as little as $5 a month you can help us reach that goal.

Join the conversation: In lieu of comments, we encourage readers to engage with us across a variety of mediums. Join our Facebook discussion. Message us via our website or staff page. Send us a secure tip. Share your thoughts in a community opinion piece.