Chino School Board Mulls Parental Notification Mandate For Transgender Students

With state legislation that would have mandated that school officials within three days of learning that a student is identifying as a gender other than that indicated on his or her birth certificate inform the child’s parents having collapsed from its own weight in the Democrat-dominated legislature in Sacramento, a question now stands whether the Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education, which endorsed the legislation by a supermajority in April, will use their authority to impose that requirement on district educators this summer before the opening of the 2023-24 school year.
For roughly a decade, the Chino Valley Unified School District had fallen under the heavy influence of Christian fundamentalists, in particular those aligned with the Chino Hills Calvary Chapel, a church led by the Reverend Jack Hibbs. Hibbs evinces a denominationalist attitude, which holds that Christians have a duty to take over public office and promote their religious beliefs.
Hibbs made an object demonstration of the impact his brand of evangelism can effectuate when in 2010, through an extension of his church known as the Watchman Industry and with Board Member James Na’s and then-Board Member Sylvia Orozco’s assistance, he successfully lobbied the school board to include Bible study classes as part of the district’s high school curriculum.
Hibbs’ grip on the district was strengthened when another member of his church, Andrew Cruz, joined Orozco and Na on the board. In 2014, the Freedom From Religion Foundation of Madison, Wisconsin filed suit in Federal Court in Riverside against the district on behalf of two named plaintiffs, Larry Maldonado and Mike Anderson, and 21 unnamed plaintiffs who asserted they were alienated or intimidated at school board meetings because of the insistence of some district officials to engage in so-called Christian witnessing, including “prayers, Bible readings and proselytizing.”
A push was on to remove religion as a guiding element of the educational principle in the district’s schools. Ultimately, a ruling on the Freedom From Religion Foundation lawsuit by Federal Judge Jesus Bernal resulted in overt religiosity and proselytizing within the district’s schools being eliminated. In 2018, this trend picked up steam when Orozco did not seek reelection and Christina Gagnier and Joe Schaffer were elected and thereafter joined with Board Member Irene Hernandez-Blair to form a board majority that countered Na and Cruz in their philosophy that the district’s educational mission could be merged with an effort to have the district’s students accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior.
Following the 2020 election, however, when Hernandez did not seek reelection and was replaced by Don Bridge and both Na and Cruz were reelected and the 2022 election when Sonja Shaw replaced Gagnier and Schaffer did not run and Jon Monroe was elected to the board, the religious right had once again taken over solid control of the district board.
In March, Assemblyman Bill Essayli, a Republican, introduced his Assembly Bill 1314, with its requirement that school officials not keep information pertaining to the gender reidentification that students insist upon within a school setting from the parents of those children.
At its April 7 meeting, the Chino Valley Unified School Board took up consideration of a resolution to endorse Essayli’s bill. The item brought hundreds of students, former students, parents and other interested community members to the meeting to express their support or opposition for the resolution as proposed as well as their support or opposition to Assembly Bill 1314. Because of an over-capacity crowd, not everyone who had shown up was allowed into the meeting chamber and at least some of those who wanted to address the board on the topic were unable to be heard.
Ultimately, the board voted 4-to-1, with Na, Cruz, Monroe and Shaw, who is now serving as board president, prevailing. Board Member Bridge cast the sole dissenting vote. A week later, AB 1314 died a quiet legislative procedural death when Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, a Democrat and the chairman of the Assembly Education Committee, declined to set a hearing date for the bill before his committee, such that the bill was not given a chance to be considered by the entire Assembly.
“While Democrats have the votes to kill my bill in Sacramento, they do not have the votes to suppress parents’ voices at the local level,” Essayli said. He called upon parents and others who support the concept of involving parents in guiding their children through their adolescence to encourage local school districts to enact policies to achieve the goal of Assembly Bill 1314.
Given the strong rightward leaning of a large number of parents in the district and the 4-to-1 support AB 1314 had among the board, an effort is afoot to have district staff place an item before the board which would create a directive and requirement that district employees adhere to the terms of Assembly Bill 1314 such that they are required to inform parents that their children are identifying as a gender different from the one designated on their birth certificate.
Those opposed to such a requirement maintain that students have an innate right to identify themselves in any way they wish and that they should not be subject to any second-guessing with regard to that by anyone, including their parents.
They say a district policy requiring teachers, administrators, other faculty, school counselors and therapists to inform parents of a student’s declared sexual orientation or claimed gender would be tantamount to “outing” them, potentially subjecting them to a hostile home environment.
Licensed counselors, therapists, psychologists, and other mental health providers who might be in a position to learn whether a student’s gender self-identification is different to that commonly associated with the student in question have legal, ethical and Hippocratic obligations to maintain the confidentiality of whatever they might learn during a counseling session, those opposing the proposed district policy of informing parents about the gender self-identification of students. A school board does not have the legal or moral authority to violate that confidentiality, they maintain.
California Health & Safety Code § 124260 addresses issues pertaining to the psychological counseling of minors, those opposed to any district policy mandating disclosure of a student’s self-identity with regard to gender, and allows a counselor to dispense with a requirement that parents be informed about counseling being provided to their children if the counselor deems such disclosure to be contrary to the interest of the individual being counseled. Thus, those opposed to any district policy mandating disclosure of a student’s self-identity with regard to gender maintain, it should be left up to the discretion of the counselor as to whether the student’s parents should be informed about any gender self-identification issues their child may have, rather than subjecting the counselor to a disclosure mandate. Such a mandate that would require that counselors violate counselor/counselee confidentiality would place the counselor at risk of losing his or her counseling license, those opposed to any district policy mandating disclosure of a student’s self-identity with regard to gender assert.
Those opposed to a mandate to inform parents of their children’s gender self-identification say such a requirement would potentially result in legal challenges to the district that will prove costly in monetary terms to defend against.
Those who have come to believe that they are of a different gender mentally than they are biologically may not be able to bring themselves to discuss the matter with their parents, said Daniel Moore, the 2023 Chilo High School Valedictorian. He told the school board on April 7 that “You will never understand the gravity of the danger this resolution places on transgender students. You are supposed to protect students. You are supposed to support students. You are supposed to ensure equality for each student. Proposing this resolution does the complete opposite. Forcing teachers to out trans kids to their parents puts them at risk, the risk of being disowned, kicked out and even harmed.”
On the other hand, there are those who asset that parents have a right to know if their children are beset with gender identification issues. Others say that keeping parents in the dark about their children’s gender self-identification is a delaying tactic that will only serve to prevent those who have the best interest of their children at heart from coming to terms with reality and prevent a full airing and rendering of the issue at a time when knowledge and understanding is key to constructing a living arrangement with that reality. Further, it has been observed, the belief that such a central element of a person’s life can be effectively hidden from his or her parents is folly.
Excluding parents from knowledge about their children that is in the possession of others can subject those children to risks, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation, others say.
It is not the place for teachers, counselors or psychologists to circumvent a parent’s knowledge of what their children are going through, some have observed.
The reality is that social media platforms from which many children draw their information with regard to gender identity are not fine-tuned to each individual, and actively or passively preventing parents from knowing that their children are engaged in obtaining information from such sources and internalizing it without the benefit of a more mature perspective presents a danger to those students, those in favor of keeping parents involved in their children’s lives have asserted.
“Parents play a critical role in nurturing and supporting children and they cannot be removed from the equation,” Essayli said.
According to the Williams Institute, 1.23 percent of those between the age of 13-17 in the United States identify as transgender.
-Mark Gutglueck

Leave a Reply