The Capistrano Unified School District, Orange County’s largest, has rejected a parental notification policy that critics say could have led to students being “outed” as transgender to their families.
Unlike those enacted by Orange, Chino Valley, Murrieta Valley, Temecula Valley, Placentia Yorba-Linda and other districts, Capistrano’s proposal did not specifically mention gender identity.
Instead, it would have required schools to notify families if a student was “exhibiting symptoms of depression, anxiety, a dramatic shift in academic performance, social withdrawal or other significant changes affecting a student’s well-being.”
When pressed on the issue during Wednesday night’s school board meeting, Trustee Lisa Davis, who proposed the policy, acknowledged that it could be applied to gender identity, the Orange County Register reported.
“I ask for your vote to make it clear to parents and guardians that we see them as an integral part of their child’s success both academically and in their life, as we combat the real challenges our students are facing, which is no less than a [mental health] epidemic,” Davis said.
The board rejected the proposal 4-2 after an emotional public comment period that lasted more than an hour.
“This bill does not do anything to help our mental health,” a sophomore at San Juan Hills High School told board members. “On the contrary, it destroys the environment from being a safe space that our schools need to be.”
Parental notification has become a political flash point for many school districts in California and elsewhere.
Advocates believe that schools have a responsibility to notify parents of any issue related to their child’s mental health. Opponents, however, argue it amounts to the “forced outing” of students that could jeopardize their safety and well-being at home.
Bonta also denounced the Murrieta Valley district’s policy as harmful to the well-being of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students.
“My office remains committed to ensuring school policies do not target or seek to discriminate against California’s most vulnerable communities. California will not stand for violations of our students’ civil rights,” Bonta said.