During Tuesday evening’s meeting, the Kern County Board of Education had a discussion and public comment regarding mandating parent notifications on students’ gender identity. This policy would be similar to the one passed by the Chino Valley School Districts, which was subsequently halted by the San Bernadino Superior Court last week.
Following the discussion by the board members, a motion was made to table further discussion on this policy until further information is brought forward on the current lawsuit between the Chino Valley School District and the Attorney General’s office. This motion was passed 5-2, with board members Lori Cisneros and Mary Little voting against it.
The Chino Valley School District’s policy — which was initially passed in July — required schools to inform parents, with minimal exceptions, whenever a student requests to use a name or pronoun different from that on their birth certificate or official records. The policy also requires notification if a student requests to use facilities or participates in programs that don’t align with their sex on official records.
This disclosure was to be made even without the student’s permission and even when the school district knew a student may be harmed emotionally or physically by the disclosure.
On September 6, the San Bernardino Superior Court made a ruling to issue a temporary restraining order against the Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education’s decision to mandate gender identity disclosure, immediately halting the district’s enforcement.
“San Bernardino Superior Court’s decision to issue a temporary restraining order rightfully upholds the state rights of our LGBTQ+ student community and protects kids from harm by immediately halting the board’s forced outing policy,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta.
Bonta continued by stating that although this fight was far from over, this ruling is taking a significant step towards ensuring the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of transgender and gender-nonconforming students. The Court’s ruling came just one week after the Attorney General announced a lawsuit challenging the enforcement of the board’s disclosure policy.
“As we continue challenging the policy in court, my office will continue providing our unwavering support to ensure every student has the right to learn and thrive in a school environment that promotes safety, privacy, and inclusivity,” stated Bonta.
During their discussion, the Kern County Board of Education board members discussed hiring an outside attorney who could look further into this matter and provide insight on what could be done to get this policy passed locally.
Board member Joe Marcano, who looks over Area 2, encouraged everyone who is pro-parental rights to wait until further information develops so that the Kern County Board of Education can avoid a lawsuit like the one the Chino Valley Board is going through.
“Just wait to see how it plays out in the courts. We have nothing to gain by doing something now and opening ourselves up to litigation when that litigation is already out there,” Marcano commented.
Board member Little, however, disagreed with Marcano’s statement, interjecting that the board has everything to gain by implementing trust and supporting a bond between parents and teachers. She also stated that she believes that a policy like this is within their jurisdiction since their policy states they can support parents.
Dozens of parents and community members from both sides came forward to give their opinions on the policy and those attendees in opposition to implementing this policy continued to bring the dangers of this sort of policy to the board member’s attention, informing them that it could put students in danger.
The possible dangers this policy could introduce include making LGBTQ+ students vulnerable to hostile reactions that include but are not limited to, domestic abuse and bullying, increased trauma, violence, and increased suicidal thoughts.
Attorney General Bonta is also aware of these possible dangers and prior to beginning his investigation and the filing of his lawsuit against the Chino Valley School District, he sent a letter to Superintendent Norman Enfield and the Board of Education cautioning them of the dangers of adopting its forced outing policy, emphasizing the potential infringements on students’ privacy rights and educational opportunities.
“As the California Department of Education has instructed, ‘Disclosing that a student is transgender without the student’s permission may violate California’s antidiscrimination law by increasing the student’s vulnerability to harassment and may violate the student’s right to privacy.’ Courts have recognized that gender identity is a protected privacy right under the California and U.S. Constitutions,” Bonta stated in his letter.
This letter continues by also stating that: “Transgender identity is an ‘excruciatingly private and
intimate’ detail about oneself and is thus protected by the right to privacy. And students do not waive their reasonable expectation of privacy simply by expressing their gender identity in school. Infringements on privacy rights can only be justified by compelling state interests and must be narrowly tailored to serve those interests.”
For now, in Kern County, further discussion and the implementation of a policy like this has been tabled. However, it is possible for this policy to be brought back up in the future as the board members continue to keep their eyes on the fallout between the Chino Valley School District and the Attorney General’s office.