Chino Valley Unified teachers must tell parents if their child identifies as transgender under a fiercely debated policy approved by the school board late Thursday, July 20.
The 4-1 vote in favor of the notification rule came at the end of a contentious, four-hour meeting that at one point saw the ejection of state Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurmond, who was led away by security officers to shouts of “kick him out.”
Thurmond was there to address the Chino Valley Unified School District board before its vote on the parental notification policy, an issue that drew more than 300 people to Don Lugo High School. Parents and community members brought flags, T-shirts, and signs to wave during the meeting to show support for their side of the issue.
The policy introduced in June requires schools to notify parents in writing within three days after their child identifies as transgender, is involved in violence or talks about suicide. Under the policy, schools will notify parents if their child seeks to change their name or pronouns or asks for access to gender-based sports, bathrooms or changing rooms that do not match their assigned gender at birth.
Before his removal from the meeting, Thurmond told the board “the policy you consider tonight may not only fall outside of privacy laws but may put our students at risk.”
School board President Sonja Shaw kicked him out after she said he continued to speak beyond his allotted one minute.
“Tony Thurmond, I appreciate you being here, but we are here because of people like you,” Shaw said.
Thurmond was not the only state official to weigh in on the topic Thursday. In a letter to the Chino Valley Unified school board Thursday evening, state Attorney General Rob Bonta warned that the notification policy potentially infringes on students’ privacy rights and educational opportunities. Each student’s right to choose when, how and with whom they share their gender identity must be protected, Bonta said in a news release.
“By allowing for the disclosure of a student’s gender identity without their consent, Chino Valley Unified School District’s suggested Parental Notification policy would strip them of their freedom, violate their autonomy, and potentially put them in a harmful situation,” Bonta said. “Our schools should be protecting the rights of all students, especially those who are most vulnerable, and should be safeguarding students’ rights to fully participate in all educational and extracurricular opportunities.”
In his letter to the board, Bonta wrote his “office has a substantial interest in protecting the legal rights of children in California schools and protecting such children from trauma and exposure to violence. I will not hesitate to take action as appropriate to vigorously protect students’ civil rights.”
Eighty-three people signed up to speak on the issue Thursday night, leading the board to vote 3-2 to reduce each person’s speaking time from the usual three minutes to one minute in an effort to save time. The suggestion to do so came from board member Jonathan Monroe.
“You all waited in 100-degree weather,” he said. “I would rather hear from all of you for one minute rather than half of you for three minutes.”
Speakers spoke on both sides of the issue.
“It is morally repugnant that they think parents shouldn’t be involved with their children,” Chino Valley school parent Nick Wilson said.
“We are here today because our kids are in danger,” parent Oscar Avila said. “Our kids are in danger from groomers.”
Not all supported the notification proposal.
“If you pass this policy, you are telling trans kids they don’t matter and you are placing a burden on teachers,” recent Chino Hills High School graduate Daniel Mora told trustees.
“Students don’t want your policies, we just want our education back,” Chino Hills High School graduate Esther Kim told the board.
Chino Teachers Association President Brenda Walker said the policy would be “divisive and unnecessary.”
The policy under consideration Thursday echoes a Riverside County lawmaker’s bill that stalled in the state Assembly earlier this year.
Assembly Bill 1314 sought to require schools to notify parents when a child identifies as transgender.
Republican Assemblyman Bill Essayli, who proposed AB 1314, attended Thursday’s meeting to support parental notification.
“We don’t have the power to change things at the Sacramento level, but we can change it at the local level,” he said.
The board voted 4-1 to adopt the notification policy, with board member Donald Bridge opposing. Ahead of the vote, Bridge expressed concerns about student safety.
“If this policy is enacted, it will effectively shut the door on a student confiding in a teacher,” Bridge said. The policy, he added, would effectively “throw the child back in the closet and slam the door.”
The vote was applauded by some members of the audience who stood and cheered for the board.
“Today, we must make sure our parents are in charge, not the state,” board member James Na said.
Thursday’s meeting wasn’t the first Chino Valley school board session to tackle a controversial topic.
In June, the same day the district introduced its notification policy, the school board banned all flags except the U.S. flag and the California state flag from classrooms. Some worried that the board’s actions would negatively affect LGBTQ students.