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Where the parents have no labels


WORLD Radio - Where the parents have no labels

California’s attorney general undermines school district’s decision to tell parents about their children’s gender behavior at school

Parents and community members of the Chino Valley Unified School District at a Q&A session with school board members in June. Getty Images/Photo by David McNew

PAUL BUTLER, HOST: It’s Thursday the 14th day of September, 2023.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Paul Butler.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.

First up on The World and Everything in It: parental rights.

Do parents have a right to know how their children are behaving at school? A school district in Chino Valley, California says yes.

SHAW: Mr. Na, aye. And I’m a yes, the motion passes [cheering]

BUTLER: This summer, the Chino Valley Unified School District adopted a new parental notification policy. The policy requires staff members to notify parents about their children’s behaviors, including gender, acts of bullying, injuries on school property, or contemplated suicide.

BROWN: A majority of parents in the district support the rule. But not everyone is on board with the stipulations regarding gender including state Attorney General Rob Bonta, who blocked the policy with a temporary restraining order.

BONTA: Let’s call this policy what it is. It is a forced outing policy.

BUTLER: What should we make of the policy’s effect on California’s gender ideology tug-of-war and what’s its implications for the rest of the nation? WORLD’s Lillian Hamman has the story.

AUDIO: [Pledge of allegiance at the meeting]

LILLIAN HAMMAN: On a warm July evening 35 miles east of Los Angeles, students, parents, teachers, administrators, and taxpayers gathered in one of Chino Valley’s high schools. It’s the last school board meeting before the new year starts. Top priority on the agenda: a contentious parental notification policy.

SHAW: Please display appropriate behavior everyone…let it go everybody behave on all sides. Everybody, you guys are adults, there's kids in here, let's display appropriate behavior.

Wearing a hot pink dress, Sonja Shaw led the meeting. She’s not just the school board’s only woman…she’s also its president.

SHAW: I knew that God had a plan. There was a reason why he was allowing this soccer mom to be the President of the school board during a crazy time.

Right now, the craziness is centered around the parental notification policy Shaw pioneered. Teachers and staff members are required to notify parents if their children want to use names, pronouns, or bathrooms opposite of the gender on their records. But the policy doesn’t just address gender behavior. Parents must also be notified if their children are injured on school property, bullied, or are considering suicide. Pre-existing state law already requires schools to notify CPS if a student mentions abuse at home.

Several people who spoke against the policy at the meeting in July, focused on a child’s right to privacy regarding their gender behavior.

KOFI CABRERA: I'm a survivor of many years of abuse…if parents really wanted to know what's going on in their kids lives then it’s their job as a parent to create that bond and relationship. It is not something you are entitled to just because you raised them.

DONALD BRIDGE: If this policy passes we will have effectively shut the door on students confiding to a staff member or a teacher. If I don't know about it, I can’t inform the parent.

Others, including some teachers, supported the new policy as necessary for doing their job in the classroom.

SPEAKER ON BEHALF OF CARLA VANDESTEEG: When a child doesn't feel well, go on a field trip, want to watch a PG movie in class, give them any type of medication, we have to get permission from parents. I do not make life decisions for the child that sits in my classroom because I am their educator, not their parent.

Another concern raised was that the policy violated California law. The district’s lawyer explained that the policy does not align with the California Department of Education’s guidance that parents do not have a right to be notified of their childrens’ gender preferences. But, he clarified that this is just guidance. Not law. When it came time to vote, the school board approved the policy with a 4-1 majority.

Just one month later, Chino Valley faced a more serious challenge. A judge granted California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s temporary restraining order against the policy. Again, the claim was that the law infringed on state privacy protections of LGBTQ+ students. Shaw wasn’t surprised by the restraining order. But, there is no statute regarding gender in the state, or the U.S. Constitution, that grants minors a right to privacy over their parents.

SHAW: They're literally telling you that they are suing a district for wanting to inform a parent about something of their own child. The privacy laws and guidelines were put in place to protect children from third party and government. Not from their parents.

A formal hearing for Bonta’s restraining order on the policy is set for October 13th. But Shaw doesn’t expect the legal battle to end there. This week, the Chino Valley board secured the help of a non-profit law firm. That will help keep taxpayer dollars in the classroom and out of the courtroom during the legal fight.

SHAW: We secured Liberty Justice Center. I get the chills even saying that because we've built the dream team. I think to go as high as we can take this.

Shaw knows Bonta’s restraining order and Newsom’s recent child transgender welfare bill are no small opponents. Neither are the death threats she and her family have received for passing the parental notification policy. But, Shaw also believes these obstacles illuminate the state’s true intentions with a fire parents aren’t backing down from.

SHAW: People are aware of it now and here’s the greatest thing that I see happening too. You see people running for all these elected local positions. We know our families are important. Our kids are important. Even though sometimes it gets thick we just get on our knees pray and we ask what’s next, and now the nation's reaching out to help. Because they know whatever happens in California goes everywhere else.

At least three other Southern California school districts have already followed Chino Valley’s lead passing similar parental notification policies. Shaw believes that if someone like her can take the risks involved in challenging the state, then even more will follow.

SHAW: I didn't graduate college. I took care of my siblings since I was little. My mom was on drugs when I was little, my dad was from another country, like if I could do it with all the obstacles, then anybody can, you know, stand up and do this, too.

And if parents in California and elsewhere can come together for the same cause, Shaw believes they can successfully challenge lawmakers.

SHAW: They've tried to divide us right, religious, non religious, Republican versus Democrat. But when it comes to our kids, we rip off the labels, we're fighting as people, as humans that love our children, right? We become one for our children. I think we’re unstoppable because we have God directing the ship.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Lillian Hamman.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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