From California to Minnesota to the District of Columbia, the transgender agenda has infiltrated the classrooms of even the most tender youth. Last week Alexandra DeSanctis reported for National Review Online about the “transition ceremony” hosted by a kindergarten teacher at California’s Rocklin Academy Gateway to celebrate a gender-dysphoric boy donning the attire and appellation of a little girl. As DeSanctis noted, the shocked and angry parents of the Rocklin pupils had not received advance notice of the “lesson” and learned of the events only when their confused children returned home.
When the outraged parents complained to school administrators, the principal fell back on Rocklin’s non-discrimination policy and the supposed age-appropriateness of the discussions. The parents’ ire at the principal and, for that matter, even the school board was wrongly directed. The fault lies instead with the California legislature. Here’s why.
“This chapter does not apply to instructions, materials, presentations, or programming that discuss gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, discrimination, harassment, bullying, intimidation, relationships, or family and do not discuss human reproductive organs and their functions.”
So, contrary to the parents’ assumption that the local administrators of Rocklin Academy failed them and their children, the blame lies with the California legislature, which purposely exempted gender identity from both the notice and opt-out mandates of its sex-education provisions.
California is unique in that its legislature expressly excluded classroom instruction related to gender identity from the state’s sex education notice and opt-out requirements. However, while other states have not (yet) taken this direct approach, parents might be surprised to learn that the of law of their state likely provides them with no better protection.
California requires schools to let parents opt their children out of sex education, which excludes ‘gender identity,’ however, according to the state’s education code.
For instance, the Colorado Comprehensive Health Education Act provides that local school boards and districts must provide written notification to parents of any “comprehensive health education program” and allow parents to opt their students out of the curriculum. But the statute defines “comprehensive health education program” to mean “a planned, sequential health program of learning experiences in preschool, kindergarten, and grades one through twelve.”
Given Colorado’s definition of “comprehensive health education program,” an event such as occurred at Rocklin Academy would not trigger the notice and opt-out provisions. A morning spent reading a picture book, followed by the introduction of a boy, his brief disappearance for a wardrobe change, and then reentry with a new feminine name and attire hardly qualifies as a “planned sequential health program of learning experiences.” Instead, the school would view such events as anti-bullying education.
While California’s explicit exemption of “gender identity” from the notice and opt-out provisions of state law is an outlier, Colorado’s approach is not. Rather, it appears to be the norm. Consider, for example, the District of Columbia’s notice and opt-out regulations:
“Prior to offering human sexuality and reproduction courses or programs, the principal shall notify in writing the parents or guardians of minor students. A minor student shall be excused from participating in human sexuality and reproduction instruction upon receipt by the principal of written notification from the student’s parent or guardian.”
Given the “human sexuality and reproduction” language used in the regulations, gender-identity or transgenderism lessons would not trigger D.C.’s notice and opt-out mandates either. Many other states use similar statutory or regulatory language, leaving parents without recourse to protect their children from being taught a transgender agenda in the public school system.
Nor will parents prevail in litigation should they turn instead to the courts and the Constitution. Rather, as I explained in detail last week at the Federalist in “Why the Most Realistic Solution to Schools’ Trans Indoctrination Is Withdrawing Your Kids,” a claim that transgender school lessons infringe on free-exercise rights or violate constitutionally protected parental rights would fail.
However, for those unwilling or unable to abandon the public school system, one other option remains: Lobbying state legislatures to extend (or create) notice and opt-out rights for issues related to gender identity. Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Texas already provide parents a blanket opt-out right for all aspects of the school’s curriculum. Concerned parents should push their own state legislatures to follow suit, or at least guarantee the right of parents to opt their children out of lessons covering issues of gender and gender identity. But time is of the essence, because kids grow up so fast — and that process is already difficult enough as it is. Schools shouldn’t be making it harder.
— Margot Cleveland is a lawyer, CPA, stay-at-home mom, and former full-time faculty member and current adjunct professor at the college of business at the University of Notre Dame. She can be reached at [email protected].