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Lance Christensen: Honesty is the Best Parental Notification Policy

Last week, I signed a permission slip for my 11th grade son allowing him to see a PG-13 movie for his United States history class in our local public high school. I was thankful that the school respected our relationship enough to ask permission to show a movie based on a historical event that is age-appropriate and consistent with curriculum adopted by the district. That’s what trusted partners do.

So it’s troubling to know that the state of California is now pushing a policy to require teachers and school officials to lie to parents about something as significant as a student’s gender dysphoria. A battle line has been drawn in the Golden State over this question: Who has ultimate authority over our children? A parent or government agents?

State officials, however, are relying on Assembly Bill 1266, drafted by Asm. Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, a decade ago to deceive school districts in order to accommodate dysphoric children in their desire to participate in a sex-segregated sport or use a restroom not aligned with their birth sex. Though AB 1266 says nothing about teachers hiding gender transitions from children’s parents, California Department of Education guidelines intentionally misinterpret the law to push the fallacy that children have a right to privacy from their own parents.

In recent years, when gender dysphoria accelerated at the speed of a social contagion, and activist teachers decided it was their job to affirm confused adolescents rather than partner with parents to assist them through puberty, many school districts like Chico, Newport Mesa and Spreckels hid students’ gender transitions from parents.

In order to clarify any ambiguity in state law, Asm. Bill Essayli, R -Riverside, introduced AB 1314 that would have required schools to alert parents if their child was going through a transition at school. Not wanting to expose fellow Democrats to a vote against their radical left, the chair of the Assembly Education Committee, Al Muratsuchi, declared that the bill was dangerous and refused to allow it to be heard, despite pleas from supporters across the political spectrum.

So, Asm. Essayli worked with a coalition of parent advocates to distill AB 1314 into a local policy that school districts could easily adopt. Chino Valley Unified was the first to propose the measure courageously led by their newly-elected board president, Sonja Shaw.

The adoption process was not without controversy, including heckling from the state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond during the proposal’s public hearing. Nevertheless, the board persisted and delivered on its promise to keep parents as full partners in their children’s education.

In retaliation, California Attorney General Rob Bonta sent a “spurious” investigation threat quickly disassembled by attorney Laura Powell on X. Constitutional lawyer Dean Broyles, has argued the policy “adopted by CVUSD represents ‘best practices’ from a public policy standpoint and is in complete alignment with the U.S. Constitution, federal law, state law and common sense.”

Several other school boards have since approved the policy with a growing number taking the policy under consideration, despite the threats of litigation by the attorney general. The school trustees are all on sound footing to move forward under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently said that parents, not schools, possess the fundamental right to raise their children, and to direct activities and make decisions regarding the child’s care and control, education, health and religion. The court calls this constellation of parental interests “essential” and has declared parental rights among the “basic civil rights of man.”

The relationship between a parent and teacher is sacrosanct as parents entrust their precious children to teachers hoping they receive an education, not social reconditioning. Eroding the trust between parents and teachers because of a dubious reading of state law is serious and troubling.

Requiring teachers and schools to lie to parents is also unethical. Secrecy not only creates a schism between parents and teachers, but among teachers who find it reprehensible to lie and their employers. It also leaves students to grapple with whom they should trust.

Public school administrators and teachers are part-time and limited caretakers of our children and they need to be full and honest partners with parents and perpetuate policies that promote maximum transparency among the parties in order to safeguard children and provide them the best academic outcomes.

That is the proper role of our public schools that parents expect and that the law requires. And honesty is always the best parental notification policy.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Orange County Register.

Lance Christensen is vice president of education policy and government affairs at California Policy Center.

California Local Elected Officials (CLEO) is a membership organization that networks, educates, supports and advises local elected officials throughout California’s thousands of cities, counties, school and special districts. CLEO offers policy guidance, detailed financial analyses, legal perspectives and communications assistance to our members on principled governance. Find out more at Calelecteds.org.




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