The states’ war on school boards is a war on parents. In California, parents are fighting back.
Are parents a threat to their own children? A California court says “yes.”
Last Wednesday, a California judge temporarily blocked the Chino Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) from notifying parents when their children request to be identified or treated as a gender other than their biological sex. Ruling from the bench, Superior Court Judge Thomas Garza granted the temporary restraining order (TRO) requested by the State in its lawsuit over the district’s transgender notification policy filed late last month.
The California decision comes just weeks after a similar ruling in New Jersey, where the State sued three of its own school boards to halt their parental notification policies. The New Jersey court temporarily blocked them while the legal proceedings play out. We covered that case here,
When New Jersey’s Governor Phil Murphy was asked on Face the Nation how he justified overriding the school boards’ authority to keep parents informed about their children, he played it down:
Parents are always involved. In our administration, they’re always at the table, and they always will be. … Obviously, parents are the existential reality in the upbringing of any child without question. I don’t deny that for one second.
Murphy’s words fell flat on the parents in those districts. They were outraged. The State’s attack on their duly elected school boards was an attack on them.
Parents in California are no more eager to sign their children over to the state than parents in New Jersey. Jonathan Zachreson, co-founder of parent advocacy group Protect Kids California, says his organization’s research shows parental notification policies are widely supported by both parties:
Our polling that we’ve done was very specific to this question: Do you believe that parents should be notified that their kids are being treated as a different gender at school? It’s like 68-69% of California voters, including almost two thirds of Democrats say yes.
Similar polling in New Jersey came up with 77% support for notifying parents when their children assert a change in gender.
“As long as you frame the issue as parental rights,” Zachreson says, “you’re going to win and the other side is going to lose.”
But when the queston is framed as “Do you support limiting LGBTQ+ rights?” then most people will say no.
Rob Bonta, California’s Attorney General—and likely contender in the next race for Governor—of course knows this. In his statement announcing the lawsuit against the district, he called its policy a “forced outing” policy targeting trans kids, instead of what it really is—a parental notification policy:
We’re in court challenging Chino Valley Unified’s forced outing policy for wrongfully and unconstitutionally discriminating against and violating the privacy rights of LGBTQ+ students. The forced outing policy wrongfully endangers the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of non-conforming students who lack an accepting environment in the classroom and at home. Our message to Chino Valley Unified and all school districts in California is loud and clear: We will never stop fighting for the civil rights of LGBTQ+ students.
Shifting the narrative away from parents’ rights toward the more popular LGBTQ+ rights gives Bonta a chance at winning, at least with his base.
California Considers All Parents a Danger To Their Own Children
But when Bonta promotes the lawsuit as an LGBTQ+ kids’ rights crusade, he just forces the State into another tight spot: To make its case, it has to take the perverse position that parents are a danger to their own children. The State’s complaint says those children have rights, including privacy rights—to keep things from their parents, with whom they are presumptively “unsafe.”
How do we know this? Their children say so.
To support its argument that keeping parents informed will cause irreparable harm to students, the State’s Memorandum (pp. 8-14) relies on subjective assertions of feelings such as these, presented as “fact”:
A current CVUSD student stated, “[t]his policy threatens my safety” and “tells me I don’t belong.” …. The student explained:
52 percent of trans kids feel accepted at school, but only 35 percent feel accepted at home. That leaves a large gap there of kids who feel welcome at school but not at home. Feeling safe at school lessens suicide risk. If a student isn’t out to their parent, [the Policy] shoves them “in the closet” at school.
A letter from a transgender student … explained: ‘If a student is outed to their family without their consent, this could possibly result in abuse, hate crimes, getting kicked out of their homes, [and] in extreme cases, being murdered.’
As one CVUSD teacher put it starkly: “This policy will out a student . . . putting them into a hostile household, which will further their mental degradation to the point where they will harm themselves. . . . This policy will kill somebody.”
In other words, no child is safe once his parent knows he struggles with his gender.
But there’s no evidence that parents are a danger to their kids when they’re going through gender struggles, California Assemblyman Bill Essayli told Fox News:
California parents are not backing down to the bullying tactics of the Attorney General. Last night another school board joined our movement to protect parental rights. Children are the domain of their parents, not the government. Thank you @SandraSmithFox for having me on “Your… pic.twitter.com/UP0j6DiidI
— Bill Essayli (@billessayli) September 8, 2023
And we shouldn’t trust the sort of science the California complaint relies on to say that parents are a danger to trans kids, Chad Felix Greene explains at The Federalist:
The truth is, we simply cannot say what does and does not “cause” suicide in youth and we can only speculate based on the self-reports of anonymous survey takers, assuming their reports are accurate. What we can determine, however, is that there is no objective evidence to suggest increasing parental involvement in schools and restricting advanced adult education on sexuality causes distress or suicidality, certainly not in children under the age of 10.
The California court’s TRO is a temporary remedy that must be based on a showing of irreparable harm—not claims of hurt feelings based on junk science. Whether the court will follow with a preliminary injunction halting the district’s policy remains to be seen next month, when it holds hearing to examine the record in more detail.
Meanwhile, Zachreson believes the TRO application granted by the all-too-willing judge against the CVUSD is an intimidation tactic by the State, which has also launched a civil rights investigation into the district. The State is hoping other school districts contemplating their own parental notification policies will see what happened to Chino and think twice before adopting them.
CA Parents Coalition “Has Nothing To Do With Party Affiliation”
But the State may have underestimated the growing coalition of parents fighting to reclaim their rights to safeguard their own children.
Protect Kids California co-founder Erin Friday, a Democrat whose own child was secretly transitioned by her public school, says the pushback is bipartisan—“It has nothing to do with party affiliation whatsoever.”
“The [Democrat] party is just not listening to us. They want to frame this [as] ‘right versus left.’ This is about child safeguarding. It has nothing to do with party affiliation whatsoever.” – @ErinFriday75490 pic.twitter.com/cBQmvyZ4x0
— Jonathan Zachreson (@JZachreson) September 5, 2023
And Zachreson says school boards now run by newly elected conservative members are not intimidated by the State’s bullying tactics. “It may stop people to a certain degree, he says, “but for these people who have already been working on this, it’s not going to slow them down.”
In fact, as we were speaking last Thursday night, the Orange County School Board became the sixth California school district to pass a parental notification policy:
BREAKING: @OrangeUnifiedCA becomes the sixth school district in California to pass a parental notification policy on a vote of 4-0-3.
The three other school board members left in protest when the president refused to shut down the meeting after opponents to the policy… pic.twitter.com/jZCR32M6mB
— Jonathan Zachreson (@JZachreson) September 8, 2023
Even one of the students spoke out in strong favor of the new policy, Zachreson tweeted/posted that night:
Wow! Student school board member Alex Tran speaks out in strong favor of the parental notification policy. He originally intended to oppose it. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/GUrqB6UMqm
— Jonathan Zachreson (@JZachreson) September 8, 2023
Zachreson thinks the trend will continue because the school boards aren’t backing down:
It is a new paradigm that, frankly, they don’t know how to deal with because, you sue a school district, and they used to settle right away, because it’s too costly to deal with the state. You didn’t used to hear about a school district that is willing to take this all the way to the Supreme Court.
And he predicts it won’t end well. As journalist Jennifer Van Laar tweeted/posted after Orange County passed its policy, the message from the California school boards to the State is clear: “Sue us all.”
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