Orange Unified School District is set to consider a policy this week that would require certain school officials to notify parents if their child is “requesting to be identified or treated” as a different sex or gender.
As the proposed policy is written now, situations that would warrant parental notification include requests to use different names or pronouns as well as requests to change sex-segregated programs such as athletic teams or changing facilities that differ from the student’s “assigned biological sex at birth.”
The policy says it would be up to a principal or designee, certified staff or school counselor to inform parents or guardians within three school days once the district administrator or certified staff becomes aware that a child might be transgender.
“This proposed Board Policy is recommended in order to support the fundamental rights of parents/guardians to be informed of and involved in important aspects of their student’s education during the school year,” the agenda description reads.
None of the OUSD board members responded to requests for comment Tuesday.
The Orange Unified Education Association expressed concerns about this policy, alleging it “violates the California State Constitution and U.S. Constitution which ensures privacy as an inalienable right.”
“This policy proposal is a distraction, it is political and it is designed to further create chaos in our community,” said OUEA President Greg Goodlander. “The Board majority seems so concerned about raising test scores and student learning that they approved leasing a property to a charter school which is suddenly not going to open, and now this policy proposal which will have no positive effect on test scores.”
If the policy is adopted, Goodlander said, it would “drain financial resources to combat litigation when those resources should be spent supporting instruction and retaining staff.”
“Teachers and staff support all students and their families, and that includes the LGBT community,” Goodlander said. “This policy is not needed. What is needed is fiscal responsibility by this Board majority.”
OUSD is not the first district in Southern California to embark on similar efforts. In the last month, Murrieta Valley School District and Chino Valley School District have implemented similar policies for the upcoming school year, causing uproar among parents in the district as well as State Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurmond.
In Sacramento, Assemblymember Bill Essayli, R-Riverside, has led legislative efforts to require schools to inform parents if their child is transgender. While his bill that would have required this failed in committee, Essayli has defended local school boards, like Chino Valley, and rallied with parents at the statehouse this week.
In a recent letter to Attorney General Rob Bonta, Essayli said: “Never in the history of our jurisprudence have we held that children have a right to privacy from their parents.”
But Gov. Gavin Newsom this week also vowed to work with legislative leaders to combat these notification policies.
Speaking at an event outside Sacramento to promote his education policies, Newsom said, “By the grace of God, if any of us having a loved one (or) someone we care deeply about that’s struggling with their identity, grace and humility is needed as we engage in this conversation and I look forward to doing that in partnership with the legislature.”
Jacob Fraker, a spokesperson for the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, says the group “condemns these harmful and misguided policies in the strongest possible terms.” The caucus, Fraker said, “sincerely hopes that OUSD respects the humanity and dignity of their LGBTQ+ students in voting this policy down” and is actively working on the issue in the legislature.
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“Efforts must be intensified to foster a more accepting and supportive environment, where LGBTQ+ students can thrive without fear of discrimination or prejudice,” said Uyen Hoang, the executive director of Viet Rainbow of Orange County, an organization for youth and Vietnamese people who identify as LGBTQ+.
A new OUSD board majority, considered to be more conservative, emerged after the 2022 elections with the addition of new member Madison Miner.
Shortly after the elections, OUSD was mired in controversy when it quickly fired its superintendent, Gunn Marie Hansen, a move that spurred multiple lawsuits from parents and talks of recalls of those who voted for the dismissal.
OUSD starts the new year still without a new superintendent; Ernie Gonzalez, an assistant superintendent of human resources, has filled the role in an acting capacity since March.
OUSD’s proposed notification policy also instructs district officials to involve a principal or school counselor as soon as they become aware that a student may have suicidal intentions based on their verbalizations or acts of self-harm. The policy instructs the principal to immediately secure medical treatment or mental health services, keep the student under continuous adult supervision until a parent or appropriate support agency is able to intervene and notify law enforcement and other emergency assistance if suicide is actively being threatened.
Additionally, the proposed policy includes instructions if students are involved in verbal or physical altercations, physical injury has occurred on school property or there has been a complaint of bullying.
The OUSD board is set to meet at 1401 N. Handy Street, Building H in Orange at 5 p.m. Thursday.