A policy in Washington state requires teachers to conceal students’ gender transitions from their parents unless the student gives the green light for their parents to know.
The effects of the policy on children are starting to show, but teachers essentially have their hands tied, according to a teacher in Washington state who spoke with The Daily Wire and requested anonymity out of fear of being fired.
The policy comes down from the state’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), the main agency overseeing public education in Washington state.
In a section called “Communicating with Families” in OSPI’s “Gender-Inclusive Schools” guidelines, the agency warns that, “sometimes, transgender students may not want their families to know that they are transgender or that they use a different name, pronouns, and gender designation at school.”
“Often, this is because they are concerned about a lack of familial acceptance,” which could impact “their safety and wellbeing at home,” the agency adds.
Because of this, teachers may not tell the student’s parents about their transgender status unless they get permission from the student to share that information, directs the agency’s Civil Rights Guidelines.
“School staff should not disclose information that may reveal a student’s transgender status to others, including parents and other school staff, unless legally required to do so or unless the student has authorized such disclosure,” the guidelines state.
In order to avoid “unintentionally outing the student at home,” teachers should ask transgender students which name, pronouns, and gender designation should be used when communicating with parents, OSPI says. A student’s transgender status could be “confidential medical or education information,” and disclosing it, even to their own parents, could violate privacy laws, the agency explains.
“It can be a challenging situation for all involved when families and students are not on the same page about the student’s gender identity or transition. However, in Washington, the right to be treated consistent with one’s gender identity at school belongs to the student,” OSPI states.
The guidelines apply to K-12 public schools, so potentially all the way down to five-year-olds in kindergarten. OSPI says that a student’s age and grade level “should never be used to justify delaying or denying a student’s gender transition.”
“In any situation, parent and family support and notification is an option to consider, unless it’s a case of a student being harmed or considering harming themselves or others. In those cases, families (unless they are the ones harming the student) and the appropriate authorities would be notified,” OSPI Executive Director of Communications Katy Payne told The Daily Wire in an email.
Some teachers who do not agree with hiding children’s gender transitions from their parents are starting to sound the alarm.
A teacher in Washington state who spoke with The Daily Wire broke down on the phone as she described how helpless she feels in the face of the new gender identity policies.
“You know, I love teaching and I love being with the kids and I’m thinking, I’m one of the last conservative teachers in my building. If I’m gone, there’s no one,” she said, her voice breaking. “There’s no one there that would tell them any kind of truth.”
Teachers at her school were told by school counselors to use students’ preferred pronouns and names without letting parents know, she said. Last year, this teacher said she made the mistake of calling up a parent and telling them their child wanted to adopt a new name and gender identity. She asked the parent whether that was okay. The parent responded along the lines of, “definitely not, we’re Christians,” and the teacher was pulled into the principal’s office and counselor’s office and reprimanded for divulging that information to the parent. At the beginning of this school year, that school made a point of spending time going over the OSPI guidelines on parental notification and gender identity with teachers in detail.
Across her five classes, six students have changed their gender identity, and four more have changed their appearance to resemble the opposite gender but have not announced it, this teacher said. An anecdotal tidbit she shared is that she has overheard students asking each other, ‘What are you going to be?’ regarding their gender identity.
OSPI Superintendent Chris Reykdal has placed an extraordinary emphasis on implementing progressive policies since taking office in 2017. One of Reykdal’s priorities is to make sure teachers are “culturally responsive” and “racially literate.”
Meanwhile, Washington has struggled to retain students in its public education system. The state had one of the largest enrollment drops in the country after the pandemic closed schools, losing 39,000 students between 2019 and 2020. Since then, the homeschooling population has nearly doubled.
When the pandemic disrupted the school year in April, 2020, Reykdal scrambled to salvage high school graduation rates.
“Fs will not be allowed — there will be no failures this term,” Reykdal said in announcing new guidance on high school grading. “Our policy is, ‘do no harm,’ … Students won’t move backward.”
After the relaxed standards were put in place, Washington’s high school seniors graduated at record rates in spring, 2020.
Washington not the only state with a controversial policy on gender transitions and parental notification. North Carolina now allows students to change their name and sex on state records without parental consent.
This has heightened concerns that schools could tacitly encourage children to change their identities behind parents’ backs. Parents in California, New York, Texas, and Florida have already accused schools of doing just that, suggesting that this issue may be poised to become a sticking point for more parents across the country.