The Orange Unified School Board is set to consider a policy that could inform parents their children are transgender as the California Attorney General is mounting a legal challenge against a similar policy at a Chino Valley school district.
The policy would require schools to notify parents after discovering their child is transgender or wishes to be treated as a gender that differs from their biological sex.
That includes if a student requests to use a name that differs from their legal name or pronouns that aren’t associated with their biological sex. It also requires parental notification if a student requests to access sex-segregated school programs that do not align with their biological sex.
A revised policy included with tonight’s agenda specifies that students over 12 years old could refuse consent to the disclosure of their gender identity to their parents. Also, school counselors or principals could prevent the notification if they believe it could pose a danger to the student’s safety.
Orange Unified School District School Board members are expected to begin their public meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Similar policies have recently passed in school districts across the state, including the Chino Valley Unified School District, the Murrieta Valley Unified School District, the Temecula Valley Unified School District and the Anderson Union High School District. Orange Unified is the first in OC to consider the practice.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta has denounced these decisions in each of the school districts and recently filed a lawsuit against the Chino Valley school board in an attempt to halt enforcement of the policy.
“Since the first day of the 2023-2024 school year, [this policy] has placed transgender and gender nonconforming students in danger of imminent, irreparable harm from the consequences of forced disclosures,” the lawsuit reads. “These students are currently under threat of being outed to their parents or guardians against their express wishes and will.”
The attorney general’s press office declined to say if the lawsuit would be extended to Orange Unified if they approve the policy, but instead said Bonta is intent that “every student has the right to learn and thrive in a school environment that promotes safety, privacy, and inclusivity.”
The item first came before Orange Unified school board members on Aug. 17. There was no formal vote at that meeting, but the members’ comments were split on the issue during deliberations.
Board members Andrea Yamasaki, Ana Page and Kris Erickson said during that meeting that they opposed the policy, while board members John Ortega, Rick Ledesma and Madison Miner said they supported it.
“We believe it is important to clarify communication between the school district and parents and guardians on these important matters pertaining to the mental health and social and emotional issues of their students in order to prevent or reduce potential issues of self-harm,” Ledesma said during the meeting.
Board member Angie Rumsey didn’t publicly express a clear opinion either way.
Proponents of the policy champion it as a parents’ rights issue, while critics fear it would be harmful to transgender students who feel unsafe coming out to their parents.
Kristi Hirst, a parent within the Chino Valley district and co-founder of Our Schools USA, spoke against this issue during an LGBT civil rights press conference at the California State Capitol on Aug. 29.
“These policies target and discriminate against transgender and gender non-conforming students,” Hirst said. “Under these policies, every other student at a school has certain rights, but these students are denied the same rights. They are treated differently than every other student at that school.”
Angelina Hicks is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter @angelinahicks13.
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