Should Public Schools be Allowed to Deceive Parents?

No, and we need legislation to stop them.

Never encourage a child to keep a secret from her parents. That’s what we used to say, in decades past, when we believed a sacred boundary encircled every American home.

Last week, I spoke with another mother who discovered her 12-year-old daughter’s middle school had changed the girl’s name and gender identity at school. The “Gender Support Plan” the district followed is an increasingly standard document which informs teachers of a child’s new chosen name and gender identity (“trans,” “agender,” “non-binary,” etc.) for all internal communications with the child. The school also provided the girl a year’s worth of counseling in support of her new identity, which in her case was “no gender.” Even the P.E. teachers were in on it. Left in the dark were her parents.

This duplicity is part of the “plan”: All documents sent home to mom and dad scrupulously maintained the daughter’s birth name and sex. But Mom noticed her daughter seemed to be suffering. Although far from alone in declaring a new identity - many girls in the school had adopted new names and gender pronouns – this girl’s grades fell apart. She became taciturn and moody.

When the mother failed to uncover the source of the girl’s distress, she met with teachers, hoping for insight. Instead, she slammed into a Wall of Silence: no teacher was evidently willing to let a worried mom know what the hell was going on. (Finally, one did.)

When I wrote Irreversible Damage, I documented that California and other public school systems had adopted a policy of creating two sets of documents around minor students’ gender. Similar policies have cropped up across the country, modeled on the one created by the activist organization Gender Spectrum.

A “gender support plan” isn’t merely a secret held between child and teacher, which might be bad enough. This is no private student confession, the silent whisperings of a troubled teenage heart. A Gender Support Plan, or any similar scheme, effects a schoolwide conspiracy to create a secret name and gender identity specifically withheld from parents. I’ve talked to a mom whose middle school daughter slept in the boys’ bunk on the school overnight before she learned her daughter’s school had, for more than a year, called her by a different name and openly referred to her as a boy.

Teachers and activists who support this policy typically make two arguments in its favor. The first is that the very fact that a teen would want to keep her new gender identity a secret from parents is proof that home is an “unsafe” place for her; that is, her parents, if they knew, would abuse her. The second is that this gender declaration is a deeply held and personal decision of the child’s. The school, in this scenario, is merely a polite bystander—at most, a kindly chaperone. It’s not the school’s job to ask mom and dad for their approval.

The first is absurd; the second, dishonest. Why would a teen agree to keep a secret from her parents, if not for the presence of abuse? Well, as one sharp Twitter user pointed out in response to the documents I posted, one can think of a few things a teen might want to keep secret from mom: an eating disorder; her decision to join a religious cult; her dabbling in drugs; a decision to send or post nudes; or have sex with a much older boy. Teens tend to keep from mom and dad a wide variety of healthy and unhealthy teenage experimentations—sometimes to avoid parental protest; sometimes, just for the pubertal frisson.

And in virtually none of these cases is the primary motivation to keep secrets from parents necessarily fear of abuse. Sometimes it’s to avoid—groan—another lecture or even a conversation. Other times, teens keep something a secret just to avoid a “No.”

Which, in fact, is what the schools seem to want to avoid as well. The non-stop sex-and-gender celebration that begins in many public-school Kindergartens is an attempt to liberate children from any traces of sexual innocence.

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Take for example, The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and The Crime that Changed Their Lives – required reading in middle school English classes in the Dublin Unified school district of California. This Stonewall Book Award Winner is chock full of rather questionable educational material: so many “motherfuckers,” “damn, pussy, bitch f*ck!” one boy offering to suck another boy’s “prick”, teen transgender epiphanies, and suicide fantasies—one might think it had been written by an eighth grader rather than pressed on them by the adults running the school.

Lest a child miss the Gender Ideology amid the sad attempt at prose, the author provides a glossary—not for words an eighth grader might not know, but for conceptual building blocks of a world it hopes to summon into existence: “asexual,” “gender fluid,” “gender questioning,” and, of course “transgender.” (Imagine thinking there was a single teenager left in America who needed that one defined.)

To take just one scene from the book, “Watching [the YouTube video], Samantha felt something chime inside her—a bell vibrating in resonance. Before puberty, her physical body didn’t seem to have that much to do with who she was. . . . But now, being a girl was like being stuffed into a heavy, constricting costume.” And then: “I think I might be . . . transgender?” Quelle surprise.

Very often, parents lack the time and, frankly, the dark imagination necessary to uncover what their children are being taught. When parents object to a teacher or principal, they are frequently met with, at best, polite confusion. What’s the problem? We’re a “safe space” here. Parents get nowhere.

A peculiar power imbalance has arisen between public school teachers and the parents for whom the necessity of work renders them too dependent on these schools to question them.  Parents discover radical materials pushed on their children by accident, like passersby happening on a crime scene. They are treated as interlopers, trespassers; they are made to understand they have no right to be there; information on the ideology pushed on their kids is revealed on a strictly need-to-know basis. When parents do object to classroom gender ideology, they’re treated as morally obtuse or child abusers.

The contempt shown parents would be inexcusable even if teachers stuck to reading, writing and arithmetic. In a time when so many public school teachers are properly described as activists, that arrangement strips children of their families’ protection. And families must indeed protect them from an ideology that would turn students against any adult who suggests that a seventh grader suddenly jonesing for hormones and surgeries slow down. I have more than once wondered whether public schools that would openly pit students against their families, turn them against themselves and each other, aren’t doing more harm than good.

I mean no disrespect to teachers when I point out the obvious: the moment a middle-schooler whom they’ve encouraged to transition graduates to high school, they more or less wash their hands of him. Soon after the janitors have stripped the lockers clean and rolled fresh paint on the walls, teachers will mentally and emotionally prepare for the next crop of students. They may remember a few fondly—but that does little for a child they’ve set on a medically perilous path toward a dramatic identity swap. If it backfires – as it will in so many instances – it won’t be the seventh-grade music teacher who contends for years with the damage.

All of which might make you wonder, how on earth are schools getting away with this? Is there no law that bars public schools from concealing a “coming out” to parents?  Actually, there really isn’t—not a good enough federal law, anyway.

The Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) grants parents various rights with respect to their children’s education records. But as former Department of Education lawyer, Candice Jackson, explained to me, schools easily skirt this law.

[I]f a record isn’t kept in a centralized location then it doesn’t need to be considered an ‘education record’ legally. So that’s just one example of how schools have noted, ‘Yes, FERPA could be a problem for keeping stuff from parents, so let’s make sure that documentation and forms that are filled out around gender aren’t kept in the central location where the school keeps records.’

For the past year, parents have been placed in the absurd situation of playing Whack-a-Mole with the worst excesses of Woke ideology. A book here, a curriculum there. It’s exhausting—and it’s a losing game of endless defense. Time for offense.

This is where the most critical cultural battle will be fought. Not with reckless doctors, for whom lawsuits are coming. Not even with the therapists—in many cases, a luxury, parents can walk away from. It will be fought with America’s activist teachers. Will we allow the activists among them unaccountable access to the next generation of America’s children?

If conservatives and liberals hope to save this country, this is where they will place their energies: campaigning for federal legislation to grant parents full access to all curricula. And no, granting parents’ review over sex-education materials alone wouldn’t solve this problem, since the SOGI (Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity) curriculum, for instance, is often inserted into other areas of the curriculum or disguised as “anti-bullying” education. We need legislation that grants parents a right to opt out of any instruction regarding gender and sexuality and stops schools from changing a child’s name, gender marker, or pronouns without the approval of a parent or legal guardian. This has nothing to do with “outing” students and everything to do with whether a school should be permitted to hoodwink the primary locus of love and responsibility in her life.

For Pete’s sake, the state requires that teachers ask parental consent before they offer a child Tylenol. Maybe the state should require schools ask parents before inculcating a whole new identity for their child. Indeed, federal law should insist upon it.

Funny thing about this “debate” over parental rights: it cuts clear across party lines. Republican, Democrat, gay, straight—the Mama Bears of America have a very particular idea of what sorts of identities we’ll allow other adults to push on our minor children. Those insisting that teachers must “protect” seventh graders from their parents—they are rarely parents themselves. What they demand is continued unmonitored access to your children. It’s past time we stopped giving it to them.