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Orange Unified board approves transgender parent notification

The Orange Unified school board Thursday night became the sixth California school system to require notifying parents when their child identifies as transgender — a decision made after state Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta filed a lawsuit against Chino schools for a similar policy.

The vote came at the end of a long and contentious board meeting at which dozens of speakers, including many from outside the school system, testified emotionally for or against the board resolution.

The 4-0 vote came about 11:30 p.m., after three board members opposed to the measure walked out. Their exit followed a boardroom disruption started by opponents of the resolution in the audience. It turned into a shouting match between opposing sides and a brief scuffle. Most of the yelling came from resolution supporters.

Their exit followed a boardroom disruption started by opponents of the resolution in the audience. It turned into a shouting match between opposing sides and a brief scuffle. Most of the yelling came from resolution supporters.

Officers ushered the opposition protesters — members of the Revolutionary Communist Party, one of whom was shouting into a megaphone — out o the meeting hall.

The resolution approved by the conservative board majority triggers parental notification when a student requests “to be identified as a gender other than the student’s biological sex or gender listed on the student’s birth certificate or any other official records.”

The notification includes “any request by the student to use a name that differs from their legal name” — other than a common nickname derived from their legal name — “or to use pronouns” that differ from those aligned with official records.

The notification also covers a student’s attempt to take part in athletic activities or use facilities such as a bathroom that don’t align with the student’s birth-certificate gender.

The policy is similar to those passed by governing boards in Chino, Murrieta and Temecula as well as the Anderson Union High School District in Shasta County and the Rocklin school district, northwest of Sacramento.

Orange Unified school board President Rick Ledesma said that acting on the resolution was a moral imperative.

“I kind of thought throughout this whole process … you know, about the child,” Ledesma said. “Parents decide to conceive a child. Then the mother carries the child for nine months — we all know this — only to send their child eventually to school and [for the child] to be told to keep a secret, and because supposedly it comes down from the state.

“So my concern there is this child keeping a secret and, you know, potentially there’s lies being said, and this child is 12 years old … [and] is ready to change their lives forever.”

A San Bernardino County Superior Court judge Wednesday blocked the Chino district from enforcing its new policy in response to the state’s request for a temporary restraining order. The state suit alleges the policy is discriminatory and violates civil rights and privacy laws.

The “parental notification” policy, which has been proposed by a handful of conservative-governed districts in California, puts transgender and gender-nonconforming students in “danger of imminent, irreparable harm” by potentially forcibly “outing” them at home before they’re ready, according to the lawsuit.

Orange board member Kris Erickson, at the start of the meeting, said the board should put the resolution on hold pending the outcome of the state litigation. There was no reason to put the school system in costly legal jeopardy, she said.

But board member Madison Miner said she feared litigation — and other harms — that could result from lack of enacting a notification policy. Parents and the family — not staff — would have to deal with the personal consequences of a tragedy caused by lack of notification, she said.

“Is the teacher or counselor going to drive that student home from school and live at those kids’ homes?” Miner said. “Will they drive them to the doctor when they have this dysphoria? Are they going to call the ambulance if, heaven forbid, that child tries to take their own life? Are they going to pay for the funeral? … I don’t want that blood on my hands.”

The resolution includes some changes from when it was first introduced. The revised policy states that parental notification does not have to be made if a child is 12 or older and if the child would be put at risk as a result. But the lack of notification would have to be justified in writing.

In general, under the revised policy a teacher would have to notify the principal within two days of learning of the student’s gender identity-related actions as described in the policy. The principal then would have five days to notify the parents.

The policy also would cover conversations between a student and a counselor — even if the student has not acted on feelings related to gender identify.

Most of the speakers favored the resolution. They included a few local parents as well as activists from across Southern California.

Speakers against the resolution included Stephanie Camacho-Van Dyke, director of advocacy and education for the LGBTQ Center OC in Orange County.

“You do not have our students’ well-being in mind,” said Camacho-Van Dyke. “It is important to prioritize policies that protect and support every student, fostering an environment where they can thrive academically. … Our students deserve nothing less than a compassionate and equitable school environment that ensures their safety, privacy and well-being.”

“We see this circus supporting this policy that’s been traveling around our area,” said parent Soren Williams. “This policy was hand-picked to stoke fears and outrage and play into conspiracy theories to attract the circus that we have here.”

A local parent in support of the resolution was Rosa Otero, who became outraged, she said, when her daughter’s kindergarten teacher did not alert her that another girl in the class had kissed her daughter. She learned of the incident from her daughter and had to call the school six times to get an apology.

She pulled her daughter from the district and has been home-schooling her for the last two years.

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