A new bill would require California schools to tell parents that their child is transgender in the name of bolstering parents’ rights and helping children.
Bill Essayli, a GOP assemblymember representing part of Riverside County, said concealing children’s transgender identity from parents “is not only wrong, it’s dangerous and harmful to the emotional and physical safety of trans minors.” (Courtesy of Essayli campaign)
But critics argue the legislation would threaten LGBTQ students’ safety.
AB 1314, sponsored by Republican Assemblymember Bill Essayli, would give school districts three days to notify parents in writing once a school employee learns a student is identifying as a gender that doesn’t align with their birth certificate or other official records. This could include asking to be identified by a different gender or participating in sports of the opposite gender.
“Public policy should never presume that a parent does not have the best interests for that child,” Essayli, who represents parts of western Riverside County, said at a Monday, March 13, news conference.
“ … Concealing information from parents is not only wrong, it’s dangerous and harmful to the emotional and physical safety of trans minors.”
Parents, Essayli said, “play a critical role in nurturing and supporting children and they cannot be removed from the equation.”
The news conference took place outside Jurupa Valley High School. In recent weeks, conservative media have picked up the story of Jessica Tapia, a teacher who said she was fired from the school for refusing to withhold information about students’ gender identity from parents.
Tapia said she asked school administrators “‘Are you asking me to lie?’ And they said ‘Yes. It’s the law. And it’s for the students’ privacy.’”
In an interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, Tapia said the school district was forcing her to violate her Christian beliefs. She is represented by the Pacific Justice Institute, a conservative legal defense organization.
Jurupa Unified School District Superintendent Trenton Hansen said via email: “The district’s actions related to Ms. Tapia were based on its obligations under current state and federal law which protects student privacy and requires the district to provide a discrimination-free learning environment to students.”
The district did not indicate whether Tapia was fired.
State and federal law, Hansen said, protects students’ rights “to use facilities consistent with their gender identity, regardless of the gender listed on their records … all students and staff enjoy the right to privacy under the constitutions of the United States and California.”
Essayli, a first-term assemblymember, told The Sacramento Bee that the California Family Council, which describes itself as “advancing God’s design for life, family and liberty through California’s church, capitol and culture,” approached him about sponsoring the bill.
In that interview, Essayli cited a study from the Society for Research in Child Development that concluded LGBTQ youths with parental support were less likely to show depression symptoms.
The LGBTQ civil rights group Equality California and the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus issued a joint statement condemning AB 1314.
Legislation “that aims to ‘out’ transgender and non-binary students against their will does not protect them — it puts them in potentially life-threatening danger, subjecting them to trauma and violence,” the caucus said.
While LGBTQ students should feel safe talking about their gender and sexuality, “AB 1314 ignores the reality that not all trans youth have that option,” Equality California wrote.
“Trans people are more likely to face family rejection and even abuse at home based on their gender identity … For many trans kids, school is the only place they feel safe to be their true, authentic selves. Forced ‘outing’ bills like AB 1314 seek to strip that sense of safety and dignity away.”
In a February 2022 report on homelessness among LGBTQ young people, The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ youth outreach group, found that “mistreatment or fear of mistreatment related to their LGBTQ identity” was a factor for 40% of LGBTQ youths who had been kicked out of their homes and 55% who said they had run away or been abandoned.
State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, who is gay, tweeted that AB 1314 would force schools to tell parents if their child is transgender “even if the kid isn’t ready to come out to their parents. Even if ratting the kid out risks violence at home.”
A DeSantis-style bill was just introduced in CA to require teachers/counselors to inform parents if a kid id’s as a gender not on birth certificate.
Even if the kid isn’t ready to come out to their parents. Even if ratting the kid out risks violence at home.
Nope, not in CA.
— Senator Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) March 13, 2023
Essayli replied on Twitter: “My bill is aimed at supporting trans minors, not hurting them. The notification requirement is only triggered when a minor is already publicly identifying by a different gender at school.”
Senator @Scott_Wiener I encourage you to read the bill and my thread. My bill is aimed at supporting trans minors, not hurting them. The notification requirement is only triggered when a minor is already publicly identifying by a different gender at school. https://t.co/QH8Yi1OoBe
— Bill Essayli (@billessayli) March 13, 2023
At Monday’s news conference, Essayli said AB 1314 “does not prevent schools from acting to protect any child (who) they believe are in danger off-campus or at home. If a teacher believes a child’s in danger, they always have a duty to report.”
The bill faces an uncertain fate in Sacramento.
The Democratic-controlled legislature and Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom have taken strong stances in support of LGBTQ rights.
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