Orange Unified may mandate telling parents if their child is transgender, as policy spreads

By Salvador HernandezStaff Writer  Aug. 16, 2023 4:13 PM PT Share Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Email
Copy Link URLCopied!


Teachers, principals and counselors at Orange Unified School District could be required to notify parents or guardians that their child is transgender under a new policy set to be considered Thursday.

The policy is similar to measures that have been adopted by school boards in Chino and Murrieta that sparked protests and, in Chino’s case, raucous public meetings and a rebuke from the California attorney general, who warned that adopting such policies could be a violation of the state’s antidiscrimination law, infringe on students’ privacy rights and “potentially put them in a harmful situation.”

Supporters of similar measures have argued that all information about students should be disclosed to parents, and some have accused public school officials of trying to hide details about their children, and their education, from parents.

According to the policy being considered Thursday by the Orange Unified School District, principals, certified staff and counselors would be required to notify parents in writing within three school days if a student identifies as a gender “other than the student’s biological sex or gender listed on the student’s birth certificate.”


That notification requirement would also apply to students who ask to play sports, or access bathrooms or lockers, other than those of the gender they were assigned at birth.

“The Board of Education supports the fundamental rights of parent(s) / guardian(s) to be informed of and involved in all aspects of their pupil’s education to promote the best outcomes,” the measure reads.

If a student asks to be referred to by a name other than their legal name or by pronouns that don’t align with the gender listed in their official records, parents would also be alerted.

None of the school district board members responded to a request for comment about the proposed policy.

Greg Goodlander, president of the Orange Unified Education Assn. teachers union, said the measure was unnecessary and called it politically motivated.

“The union does not feel that this policy is needed,” he said. “There’s no evidence that suggests that such a policy would improve learning conditions or test scores.”

Although parent groups elsewhere have spoken out in support of similar policies, Goodlander said he was not aware of any instance in which a parent, student or teacher spoke out about the need for such a policy in his district.


“This is a distraction, and it is political,” he said.

The two board members who introduced the measure, board President Rick Ledesma and board member Madison Miner, are facing a recall attempt after the district’s superintendent was suddenly fired.

Goodlander said there was also concern because teachers had not received any training about the policy, and the union believes the policy should be bargained as part of its contract.

Earlier this year, a California bill that would have required similar notifications to parents was killed in the state Legislature after it failed to get a committee hearing.

Members of individual school districts, undeterred, have pushed to adopt the policy. In Chino, the measure was approved during a chaotic Chino Valley Unified School District meeting in July, where the state superintendent of public instruction, Tony Thurmond, was suddenly cut off while he spoke out during the meeting against the policy.

“You’re in Sacramento proposing things that pervert children,” conservative school board President Sonja Shaw told Thurmond.

Thurmond tweeted that he was thrown out of the meeting “by extremists,” referring to Shaw and supporters of the measure.

In the Murrieta Valley Unified School District, the board last week approved a similar measure after a long meeting.

The school board ruckus comes as some conservative groups have recently set their sights on LGBTQ+ issues at public schools, sparking loud debates and, at times, violence.

Arguing that they are fighting for parental rights, some groups have blasted school curricula or books that include LGBTQ+ issues.

In Riverside County, the Temecula Valley Unified School District initially banned a social studies curriculum because it mentioned gay rights activist Harvey Milk, the first out gay man elected to office in California. The board reversed its decision only after Gov. Gavin Newsom threatened to fine the district $1.5 million if it did not provide elementary school students the state-approved social studies book.

Violence erupted outside a Glendale Unified School District board meeting in June, and police declared an unlawful assembly. Hundreds of protesters and counter-protesters had swarmed the meeting because the board was considering a routine agenda item recognizing June as Pride Month.

Three people were arrested.

Before the Chino Valley Unified School District approved the policy that would require school officials to notify parents if their child identifies as transgender or gender-nonconforming, California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta issued a statement saying the policy was a possible infringement of students’ privacy rights.

Bonta, and other critics of similar policies, have warned that such measures don’t take into consideration that some students could face abuse at home for identifying as transgender.

“This proposed mandate demonstrates a reckless disregard for the real-world dangers some children may face at home,” the statement read.

In the letter to the board, it also argued the board could be violating the state’s antidiscrimination law by “outing” the student and “increasing the student’s vulnerability to harassment.”

The Chino Valley Unified School District decision prompted a response from the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, which said such decisions were opening the door to harassment.

“Policies requiring teachers to be the gender police do the opposite of ‘leave our kids alone’ — [they] incite harassment and worse,” the statement read.

Bonta’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment but stated in the letter to Chino school board officials that the district could face liability if any child was harmed as a result of the policy.