Hart board hears presentation on parental notification policies
The Hart High School auditorium was seemingly split in half on Wednesday: on one side, those who want to see a parental notification policy be implemented in the William S. Hart Union High School District, and another side that opposed the implementation of such a policy.
The Hart district governing board, as well as an audience that filled roughly two-thirds of the auditorium seating, heard a presentation at Wednesday’s regular meeting that outlines what other school districts have adopted as policies for parental notification and how those policies have been met with legal battles.
Wendy Wiles, a partner at the Atkinson, Anderson, Loya, Ruud & Romo law firm, gave the presentation and said that, in essence, a legal battle is inevitable should the board attempt to implement a policy.
So what is a parental notification policy?
“The issue of parent notification policies really began with the concept that if a student wanted to socially transition, that the parent would be notified,” Wiles said. “Parents wanted to be informed and participate in significant decisions involving their children. Those opposed in the parent notification policies felt that the policies were designed to out transgender students and were therefore opposed.”
According to Wiles, the Chino Valley Unified School District was the first to discuss, and later approve, a parental notification policy in July. Following that, she said, the Murrieta Valley Unified School District, the Anderson Union School District, the Temecula Valley Unified School District and the Orange Unified School District all approved various versions of parental notification policies.
Each district was subsequently sued, Wiles said. Those lawsuits came from different groups in each case, ranging from the office of the state Attorney General to teachers who claimed forcing them to notify parents of everything that pertains to their child is an unfair labor practice.
Some of these policies included language for notifying when a student asks for preferred pronouns or uses a different restroom. Some required notification if a student requests a change to their personal record. Wiles noted that this section of the policy was not solely about transgender students, but was an umbrella policy covering any and all changes to records.
The issue, Wiles said, is that the transgender portions of these policies were considered to be discriminatory when brought to court. The Chino Valley district’s policy, Wiles said, has had an injunction issued that sees the transgender portion of the policy be removed while allowing the student records portion to be implemented.
“The Chino case is not binding on anything that would occur in Los Angeles County, but it certainly is helpful in understanding what the courts were saying and thinking and looking at for purposes of considering any potential future policy,” Wiles said.
Another lawsuit was brought up concerning the Escondido Unified School District that saw two teachers sue the district alleging their religious rights were being violated due to the parental notification policy.
“The court has initially ruled that the policy cannot be implemented, that it is, in a sense, resulting in a potential violation to the teachers,” Wiles said, “and it is now looking at a little bit different issue than what happened in Chino Valley because it’s teachers claiming that their rights may be impacted by being ordered to take certain actions.”
Wiles went on to mention where all of the court cases currently are and in which court system they ended up in, but she asked board members to ask themselves, “Why do you want to adopt the policy and what is it to serve, but then if the policy can be implemented, what steps are going to be taken to implement a policy, regardless of all the specifics of the policy?”
As students, both past and present, gave their thoughts to the board during the ensuing three-hour public comment session, members of the crowd would echo cries of “this will hurt LGBTQ students” with thunderous applause and the waving of LGBTQ pride flags. Those in support of a potential policy, while more subdued in their reactions, would also cause disruptions at times.
In an effort to keep the meeting respectful, district Superintendent Mike Kuhlman asked that the audience refrain from reacting until each speaker was finished.
“I think we’re a little bit better as a community than a lot of you are pervading yourselves to be,” Kuhlman said. “Let’s please respect everyone, regardless of what they’re saying, regardless of their position, notice where they come from, give them the time to speak without speaking out. Can we do that? Can we show our respect to everyone on both sides?”
One of the speakers is a current student in the Hart district and was firmly against the idea of a parental notification policy, or, as the student called it, a “forced outing policy.”
“The forced outing policy will do nothing but harm the students you claim that you want to protect,” said the student, whose name was not provided. “I have a friend whose parents cut off her entire support group because she was gay. I have another friend who I knew in elementary school whose parents had to get intervened with (Child Protective Services) because of the abuse they face as an LGBTQ person. I have another friend who was disowned by her own father. If a student isn’t out to their parents, there’s always a reason why.”
On the other side of the issue was Jess, a part-time Santa Clarita Valley resident with family in the Hart district who declined to provide her last name, who argued that parents should always be the first to know what is happening with their children.
“Our first and 14th amendments give us the right to parent our children how we see fit,” Jess said. “Our beliefs are our own, our values our own. We did not give birth to our children to just hand them over to the school district or to the state … Our issue is schools keeping parents out of the picture when it comes to life-altering decisions to their children. May I remind this board that your job is not for the kids; your job is for the parents who voted you in.”
No action was to be taken at the meeting as it was an informational item only.
The meeting was continuing as of press time for this story. A followup story is planned to include the expected board discussion of the topic. Those who did not get to speak during public comments can send comments to [email protected]. The district will continue to accept comments until 7 p.m. on Thursday.