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California investigates school district's parental notification policy on children's gender identity

Rob Bonta
Posted at 8:33 AM, Aug 06, 2023

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California's attorney general said Friday he was investigating whether a local school district infringed on students' civil rights by adopting a policy that requires teachers to notify parents if their child identifies as transgender or wants to use a name or pronoun different from what's on their birth certificate.

Rob Bonta said the policy, approved by the Chino Valley Unified School District in July, could force schools to "out" their students, increasing a student's risk of being bullied or committing self-harm or suicide.

The policy also requires parents to be notified within three days if their child asked for access to gender-based sports or wants to use a different bathroom or changing rooms that do not match their assigned gender at birth.

"Students should never fear going to school for simply being who they are," Bonta said in a statement, adding that the "forced outing policy threatens the safety and well-being of LGBTQ+ students vulnerable to harassment and potential abuse from peers and family members unaccepting of their gender identity."

He added: "California will not stand for violations of our students' civil rights."

The school district board president said state officials are "overstepping their boundaries."

"This is a ploy to try to scare all the other boards across California from adopting the policy," Sonjia Shaw said in a statement to The Associated Press. "I won't back down and will stand in the gap to protect our kids from big government bullies."

A spokesperson for the school district said that Bonta did not notify them about the investigation. The board has argued that parents have the right to know. The school district is about 35 miles (56 kilometers) east of Los Angeles.

Bonta's office didn't immediately respond to an email seeking more details about the investigation.

The school board adopted the policy following a heated hearing that drew a crowd of a few hundred people, including state Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurmond, who spoke out against the proposal and was escorted out of the meeting.

Bonta sent a letter to the district in July warning the policy could be in violation of students' rights.

The policy mirrors failed legislation, introduced by a state Republican lawmaker this year, that would have required California school districts to notify parents if a child is publicly identifying as a gender different from the one on their birth certificate.

The local policy was passed as students across the country see hundreds of bills introduced this year taking aim at nearly every facet transgender existence, from health care to athletics to bathroom access. There are at least a dozen proposals introduced in various states to push for more parental rights by requiring schools to alert parents of gender identity changes in most circumstances.

While some parents and teachers argue they have a right to know, others warn it could jeopardize the mental health and physical safety of gender-nonconforming children and place educators in the crosshairs.