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California bill aims to end school gender notification policies -- and protect teachers

Mackenzie Mays, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES — As lawsuits play out in courts across the state over student privacy when it comes to gender identity, a bill introduced in the California Legislature on Wednesday aims to unilaterally end parental notification policies — and protect teachers caught in the fray.

Assembly member Christopher M. Ward, D-San Diego, is carrying legislation that would shield teachers from "any retaliation" for supporting transgender student rights and would prohibit school policies that require "forced disclosure" of youth gender decisions to their families.

The bill is the latest attempt by Democrats to rein in Republican-backed school board policies, including those that seek to notify parents if their child changes their name or pronouns, or requests to use facilities or participate in programs that don't match their gender on official records.

Such moves are being touted by conservatives nationwide in the name of parental rights. LGBTQ+ advocates have called the policies an attack on transgender children who don't feel safe expressing themselves at home.

Ward called the measures "forced outing" policies, and said the new legislation is meant to reaffirm and clarify California's stance on the issue, and would provide guidance to families of LGBTQ+ students to help them navigate the sensitive topic.

"Nothing ever was infringing on the parent-child relationship. Nothing is today, and nothing would be with this bill enacted," Ward said ahead of a news conference in Sacramento on Wednesday. "But that's not the job of teachers — to be the gender police."

 

Since school boards in conservative pockets of California started engaging in culture wars over LGBTQ+ student rights last summer, a series of lawsuits have followed, and conflicting rulings have further complicated the debate over the constitutionality of minors' right to privacy.

California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta filed a lawsuit last year against the Chino school district, alleging its parental notification policy was discriminatory and violated civil rights and privacy laws.

A San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge ruled in a preliminary hearing that the policy was discriminatory because it specifically targeted transgender students. That led the Chino Valley Board of Education to revise the policy to expand it to all students seeking any changes to their records.

Bonta filed a new motion against the district last month seeking a final judgment to ensure that school board members do not attempt to reenact the policy, as they have continued to voice support for it.

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