During their July 11 meeting, Kern County Board of Education Trustee Lori Cisneros reported that she was looking to have the board adopt this policy that was similarly passed in the Chino Valley School District that would require schools to notify parents and guardians, within three days of learning, if their child asks to be identified with a gender or name different from what was assigned at birth and if their child uses a bathroom or participates in activities that do not align with the gender provided on their student record.
Shortly after the beginning of the meeting on August 8, board member Cisneros asked that the policy be brought up for discussion and asked Board President Ron Froehlich why he had initially approved the addition of the policy to the agenda and then later changed his mind. Froehlich responded he declined to put it on the agenda because discussion on the matter had already taken place during previous board meetings.
Cisneros again requested that the policy be added, leading to a vote on whether or not to grant the board member’s request. When it was decided, 5-2, to leave it off the agenda, the room erupted in applause, booing, and shouting.
It was then that Froehlich first threatened to clear the room, leading to more arguments amongst the crowd, and less than 20 minutes into the meeting, Froehlich decided to clear the room and have the board move to the closed session portion of the meeting.
Comments among the board members on this policy during a discussion on the day of the meeting were shared by Lori Cisneros on her Facebook page.
“What about Jimmy who doesn’t want his parents to know that he feels like Jane because he knows he’s gonna get beaten?” Board member Paula Bray asked Cisneros directly.
To this, Cisneros responded: “That’s not a good argument because if he’s gonna get beaten, he’s probably gonna get beaten for not putting the dishes in the sink or not doing the right thing at home. I mean, suddenly they’re gonna get beaten from a loving home? If there’s any sense of that from the teacher, that teacher is a mandated reporter.”
When the room was later reopened for public comment, many individuals came forward to speak on the matter, both in support and in opposition to the policy.
Lance Mack, a former North High student that identifies as transgender, spoke of the importance of protecting students since not all parents are protective. He shared that he was even once homeless after coming out as transgender and even added that parental consent remains required before minors may undergo surgery or hormone treatment.
Mack continued by saying that if a student were to come out and that was to be disclosed to the parents, it could put that student in danger, much like it did to him.
“We did not have a law protecting us from our parents,” Mack revealed. “There is currently a law in place that does protect transgender students in school – they are allowed to come out and not have that be disclosed to the parents. That is the current policy, and it is a protective policy due to the fact that not all parents are accepting and welcoming of their children.”
If a policy like this one were to pass, it would make LGBTQ+ students vulnerable to hostile reactions that include, but are not limited to, domestic abuse and bullying, increased trauma and violence, and increased suicidal thoughts.
According to an Instagram post by the Kern Education Justice Collaborative (KEJC), data indicates that 82% of transgender individuals have considered killing themselves, and 40% have attempted suicide.
“That’s why AB 1314 was struck down, it didn’t go through. It’s dead in the water. It is not policy, it’s not something that’s being considered – they threw it out. So I don’t understand why people are trying to use it as a way to change the current policy when it doesn’t exist anymore. It doesn’t really make any sense,” Mack stated. “Students are allowed the right to have a safe space at school.”
Those who were in support of the policy also voiced their opinions, with Brandon Holthaus, senior pastor of Rock Harbor Church, stating that the Christian community would pull their students out of public school if they were denied this information about their children. Holthaus also questioned the morality behind the decision to deny this policy.
Jessica Enos, the leader of the Antelope Valley Parents for Education, came forward to speak in support of Lori Cisneros and her motion to add the policy to the meeting agenda, stating that it is appalling that the board is working against Cisneros.
“I’m here to tell you that you have no authority on whether we as parents have rights, it’s not rights this government can give and take away. These rights are God-given,” Enos commented. “Children are the most impressionable, most innocent among us and I question the morality of this board as elected officials and adults. Your cowardice is on full display.”
Another speaker, Chris Holland, an Associate Professor in Communications at Bakersfield College (BC) made a public comment opposing the policy.
“I teach at Bakersfield College and co-advice the SAGA club, and we have members where they’re able to be out – yes, as college students – is in our club. At home, they are not safe,” commented Holland. “I want to give you some examples of why protecting student privacy is an important thing.”
Holland went on to read the board members several headlines from media articles that depicted extreme violence against people in the LGBTQ+ community, including children.
“Man charged with killing boy, 10, who reportedly came out as gay. Woman pleads guilty to murder of son, 8, thought to be gay. North Hills father charged with killing son for being gay. Oregon mom accused of fatally beating 4-year-old son until his bowels tore because she thought he was gay. ‘He would rather have a dead son than a gay son’: Former foster mom speaks about shooting,” Holland read.
On August 4, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced that he was opening a civil rights investigation into the Chino Valley School District due to their passing of the policy that Cisneros was looking to bring into Kern County.