May 26, 2024 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Murrieta Valley School Board Passed Mandatory Gender Identity Notification Policy Last Week

Policy Identical to the One Passed Earlier This Year By Chino Valley School District

By Dolores Quintana

During an extended meeting, the Murrieta Valley school board endorsed a new policy on Thursday evening, August 10th, as reported by The Press-Enterprise. The policy stipulates that parents should be informed if their children express a gender identity that differs from “their assigned sex at birth.” The decision, which came through a 3-2 vote, was supported by board members Paul Diffley, Nick Pardue, and Julie Vandegrift, while Nancy Young and Linda Lunn dissented. It would essentially require the school to out students to their parents. 

The proposal, originally put forward by Diffley and Pardue, mirrors a policy adopted by the Chino Valley Unified School District with a 4-1 majority during a passionate and contentious meeting the previous month. The Chino Valley policy was incorporated into the agenda materials for the Murrieta school board meeting. 

The policy introduced by the Murrieta Valley Unified School District mandates that school staff must notify parents or guardians within three days of learning about a student’s intention to identify or be treated as a gender different from their “biologically assigned sex or gender” as listed on official records, like birth certificates. Instances requiring parental notification include student requests to use different names and pronouns, participate in sex-segregated programs such as sports teams, or use bathrooms and changing facilities that do not “align with their biological sex.” 

Additionally, changes to information in student records also warrant notification. Superintendent Ward Andrus noted that the board’s vote aimed to adopt a policy similar to that of Chino Valley but with the alteration of the school district’s name. He stated that district administrators would be crafting specific regulations to clarify the policy.

Notably, California Attorney General Rob Bonta initiated an investigation on August 4th into potential legal breaches related to Chino Valley’s policies. State Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurmond, who previously opposed the Chino Valley policy, sent a letter on Thursday to the Murrieta Valley school board and superintendent, requesting the withdrawal of the proposal.

Murrieta is located in Riverside County, a largely conservative area of Southern California. Five conservative school board members have recently been elected to school boards in southwest Riverside County, and Nick Pardue is one of them. According to The Press-Enterprise, his candidacy was supported by a conservative PAC.  

School board member Nancy Young stated, “It’s illegal.” in reference to this new policy. She asserted that the policy violates Education Code and state law, constituting discrimination. Young highlighted the risk of legal actions or civil rights inquiries by the state, along with the psychological distress the policy could inflict on transgender students, who face a suicide rate four times higher than their peers, as supported by studies from The Trevor Project.

Around 60 individuals participated in the meeting on Thursday night, with the majority discussing the parental notification proposal. The opinions were evenly divided, with roughly equivalent numbers in favor and against the idea. The meeting saw a high turnout, with several law enforcement officers present. Chloe Cole, an activist who identified as transgender from ages 12 to 16, advocated for the proposal, asserting that “sex cannot be changed.”

Josefina Hartley recounted a personal anecdote about a family friend’s teenage daughter who embraced a different gender identity at school and home. The granddaughter transitioned into a well-adjusted young girl with the grandmother’s intervention and subsequent discussions. Tracy Nusbaum, a parent of four and president of the B’nai Chaim synagogue, voiced her pride and support for her transgender son, emphasizing the importance of unconditional acceptance. Several Murrieta Valley students and recent graduates also expressed their perspectives. 

Lane McKeever, a Murrieta resident with grandchildren in the district, expressed her support for the proposed policy, emphasizing her opposition to teachers usurping the role of parents. McKeever drew from her own experience of her son’s struggles with depression during his school years, noting that teachers had informed her about his condition.

Corinne Smith, the senior class president at Murrieta Valley High School, drew attention to other districts adopting similar policies, urging supporters to think critically about their stance. Board president Paul Diffley clarified that the proposal is not intended as an attack on the LGBTQ community but emphasizes the paramount importance of the bond between students and their families. Board member Nick Pardue acknowledged that some parents may not be supportive or understanding, but he maintained that it is important not to infringe on parents’ rights because of the actions of a few.

Attorney Dina Harris delved into the details of the proposed policy, discussing potential enhancements to strengthen it against legal challenges. She cited a recent federal court decision that ruled against mandating parental notification for a child’s gender identity.

Shortly before the final vote, Pardue highlighted that passing the policy would communicate strong support for parental rights. Lunn, however, argued that such a decision would convey the message that students are not safe in the school environment.

in NEWS
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