As a parent, if your child started saying something at school about wanting to change his or her life in a certain way, you’d almost certainly want to hear about it. Kids will be kids, but life-changing decisions are, well, life-changing. Such is certainly the case with gender identity issues, yet instead of informing parents of children who wanted to go by new pronouns, he Escondido Union School District was hiding that fact from their parents.
Stepping up to the plate to protect the kids and their parents, two school teachers in the district, Elizabeth Mirabelli and Lori Ann West, sued. Their suit was successful, with Judge Roger T. Benitez slapping down the policy and powerfully describing the harm it wrought.
Describing the pre-ruling policy, the court noted, “The result of the new EUSD policy is that a teacher ordinarily may not disclose to a parent the fact that a student identifies as a new gender, or wants to be addressed by a new name or new pronouns during the school day – names, genders, or pronouns that are
different from the birth name and birth gender of the student. Under the policy at issue, accurate communication with parents is permitted only if the child first gives its consent to the school. A teacher who knowingly fails to comply is considered to have engaged in discriminatory harassment and is subject to adverse employment actions.”
Quoting Dr. Erika Anderson’s testimony on the matter of parental involvement and why it is important, the decision noted, “Anderson’s opinion regarding EUSD’s confidentiality and parental exclusion policies is, contrary to widely accepted mental health principles and practice.”
It then went on to quote Dr. Anderson as saying, “I am not aware of any professional body that would endorse EUSD’s policies which envision adult personnel socially transitioning a child or adolescent without evaluation of mental health professionals and without the consent of parents or over their objection. Rather, when a child presents with a desire to use a new name or pronouns, the very first step should be a careful professional assessment by a mental health professional with expertise in child gender incongruence. The first step should not be, as EUSD’s policies provide, the immediate and unhesitating affirmance of the child’s request without parental involvement or knowledge.”
So, the judge ruled, “Parental involvement in essential to the healthy maturation of schoolchildren. The Escondido Union School District has adopted a policy without parent input that places a communication barrier between parents and teachers. Some parents who do not want such barriers may have the wherewithal to place their children in private schools or homeschool, or to move to a different public school district. Families in middle or lower socio-economic circumstances have no such options. For these parents, the new policy appears to undermine their own constitutional rights while it conflicts with knowledgeable medical opinion. An order enjoining the new district policy is in the better interests of the entire community, as well as the plaintiff teachers.”
Continuing, the judge noted how the school district’s policy harms those involved, writing, “The school’s policy is a trifecta of harm: it harms the child who needs parental guidance and possibly mental health intervention to determine if the incongruence is organic or whether it is the result of bullying, peer pressure, or a fleeting impulse. It harms the parents by depriving them of the long recognized Fourteenth Amendment right to care, guide, and make health care decisions for their children. And finally, it harms plaintiffs who are compelled to violate the parent’s rights by forcing plaintiffs to conceal information they feel is critical for the welfare of their students — violating plaintiffs’ religious beliefs.“
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