Parents Furious At North Dakota School District For Suggesting It Will Buck Law On Kids’ Gender Identities

"We will not openly out any student."
Smithtown, N.Y.: A first grade classroom at the Branch Brook Elementary School in Smithtown New York is shown at the end of the school day on Tuesday, January 4, 2011. (Photo by John Paraskevas/Newsday RM via Getty Images)
John Paraskevas/Newsday RM via Getty Images

Parents are furious at a North Dakota school district they say is openly defying a state law that prohibits hiding children’s gender identities from their parents.

On May 8, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, a Republican, signed a law prohibiting schools from withholding or concealing information about a student’s transgender status from the student’s parent.

Just a day later, Fargo Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Rupak Gandhi said the school district should “double down” on supporting students who want to change their gender identity.

“We will not openly out any student because of one law if we know that that’s going to cause harm to that child,” Gandhi said at a May 9 school board meeting. Gandhi also said he believes there is a conflict between federal and state law on this issue.

The school district said their policies were not meant to go “against” parents, but some parents weren’t convinced. On May 23, parents showed up at another school board meeting to express their anger and concerns.


“The way I heard it is that you want to protect kids from their parents,” one father said. “Not only do you think you know my kids better than I do, you think you know every kid better than every parent does by saying you will not deal with the parents.”

“Whether or not you agree with the politics of the law or what is behind it, I really urge you all to pay attention to what we’re setting as a precedent,” a mother told the board.

“Whose kids are these? Do they belong to you as a school board? Do they belong to Fargo Public Schools or is each parent’s child ultimately the decision-maker in their family over what is allowed and what is safe for that child?” the mom said.

The mom added, “Parenting 101: You teach your kids that nobody that asks you to keep a secret is safe.”

Parents also expressed concerns that Fargo Public Schools is risking potential legal challenges by announcing they do not intend to fully comply with the new law. They urged the school district to back down on their resolve to buck the law.

The new law also prohibits schools from requiring employees to use a student’s preferred pronouns. Schools may also not ban anyone from using someone else’s preferred pronouns.

The law also says that schools must prohibit students from using bathrooms that do not correspond with the student’s biological sex. If a parent consents, the school may come up with a plan for a trans-identifying student to use a separate restroom.

More than 17,000 schools across the country have rules saying school staff can or should hide a student’s gender identity from parents, according to a list compiled by Parents Defending Education.

Those schools serve more than 10 million students in 38 states.

Some of the larger districts on the list are Chicago Public Schools, Los Angeles Unified School District, D.C. Public Schools, Baltimore City Public Schools, San Francisco Unified School District, Portland Public Schools, and Seattle Public Schools.

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