Chino Teachers Protest Parent Notification Mandate To State Employment Relations Board

Associated Chino Teachers, the union/bargaining unit for educators employed by the Chino Valley Unified School District, have lodged a dual protest/complaint with the California Public Employment Relations Board, contesting what the union said was a curtailment of its members’ free speech rights along with the district’s board vote on July 20 requiring that faculty inform parents if their children are reidentifying their gender.
On July 20, the board revisited a policy that was previewed on June 15, which essentially reproduced a requirement that had been embodied in Assembly Bill 1314, which was introduced in the California State Legislature in March by Assemblyman Bill Essayli. AB 1314 sought to impose statewide a 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. Essayli’s bill failed when it failed to make it out of committee into consideration by the entire lower legislative house.
The district’s version of the mandate consists of a requirement that educators at the school where a child identifies as transgender or openly speaks about suicide notify his or her parents in writing within three days. The policy, in clarifying what constitutes gender reidentification, referenced a student seeking to change his/her name or pronouns or asking for access to gender-based sports, bathrooms or changing rooms that do not match his or her assigned gender at birth.The introduction of the proposed policy at the board’s June 15 meeting was accompanied by another vote by the board which antagonized lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-queer advocates, that being the updating of the district’s policy with regard to ceremonies and observances, specifying what days or events of remembrance and what holidays would be recognized at district school campuses and within classrooms, which carried with it a limitation on what flags teachers can display in their classrooms. The change permitted the flying of the California state flag and the U.S. flag, as well as other country, state and military flags, but enjoined teachers from displaying flags commonly unfurled in support of the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-queer community.
The complaint Associated Chino Teachers filed August 8 with the California Public Employment Relations Board asserts the district made no effort to discuss the change in policy or negotiate its terms with the teachers or their union before voting in the policy changes on June 15 and July 20.
According to the union’s leadership, in addition to violating the teachers’ rights to free speech and advocacy inherent in the June 15 action, the district’s board majority, consisting of Board President Sonja Shaw and members James Na, Andrew Cruz and Jon Monroe, are focusing on political and cultural issues that should remain outside the purview of the school district, ones which will not benefit and would potentially harm students, particularly ones who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer. Moreover, Shaw, Na, Cruz and Monroe are transphobic and are violating the privacy rights of transgender students, who should be allowed to reveal their gender re-identification at a time and under conditions of their own choosing while selecting to whom they make such a revelation, opponents of the district’s parental disclosure policy say. The district’s newly adopted policy will create a circumstance in which students living in households hostile to homosexuality, bisexuality and transgenderism will be subjected to intensified mental degradation to the point they might harm or foredo themselves, the teachers’ union and its support network avers.
Brenda Walker the president of the Association of Chino Teachers, told the school board at its July 20 meeting, “This policy would directly require educators to violate California law, which prohibits such notification with[out] student consent. It would also require many educators to violate their own professional and personal ethics. This is a misuse of taxpayer funds. State and federal funds are to be used for children’s education, not a board member’s political agenda. Vital attention and discussions regarding school programs and supports for students’ academic achievement and other topics that are within the board’s purview have taken a backseat to discriminatory policies this board continues to impose against our LGBTQ+ students who are some of the most vulnerable children. This proposed new board policy… is bad for students. It’s bad for educators and its bad for the district and community.”
California Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurmond traveled from Sacramento to Chino on July 20 in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to persuade the board to not adopt the policy.
“I ask you to consider this: That nearly half of students who identify as being LBGTQ+ are considering suicide,” Thurmond said at the July 20 meeting. “The policy that you consider tonight not only might fall outside the laws that respect privacy and safety for our students but may put our students at risk.”
The board and its supporters maintain that parents have a right to participate in the education of their children and be apprised of anything that impacts their wellbeing. They insist that parents are the primary caregivers and educators of their children and that withholding from parents information about the gender identification of their own offspring is absurdly delusional. They point out that unless parents are financially enabled to fund a private education for their children, they are required by law to have their children attend public schools. Those parents should not be forced to accept their children being subjected to a lesbian-gay-bisexual-trans-queer agenda while they are in that educational setting, members of the board and parents of students in the district maintain, and preventing parents from learning of the gender re-identification of their own children is a central tenet of that agenda, they say. Gender dysphoria was previously almost universally considered, and is yet identified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, the authoritative set of definitions relied upon by psychologists, as a mental disorder. With some psychologists yet defining gender dysphoria as a mental illness, those who support the school board have posited, the parents of students with gender confusion should be informed of their child’s mental state, and it is not the school district’s or a school’s or teachers’ role to block parents from information about their child’s condition or mental state.
-Mark Gutglueck

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