'The child is not the creature of the state'
Parents aren't perfect. Some are very imperfect indeed. But they have the right to "direct the upbringing and education" of their children, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1925, in overruling a law banning religious schools. “The child is not the mere creature of the State,” wrote Justice James C. McReynolds.
Teachers and school administrators seem to think they know best how to raise other people's children, writes Robert Pondiscio in Commentary.
There have been myriad recent examples of schools imposing their staffs’ ideological preferences, and in so doing being disingenuous or openly dishonest about critical race theory, trangenderism, “social and emotional learning” programs, and other controversial aspects of school curriculum and culture.
. . . Under usual circumstances, schools require parental consent for everything from going on a field trip to giving a student an aspirin. But in 2018, New Jersey education officials directed schools to “accept a student’s asserted gender identity; parental consent is not required.”
. . . Today, nearly two dozen states have issued similar guidelines. Some, such as Massachusetts and Idaho, cite or suggest middle school as the point at which there is no “affirmative duty” to notify parents. Others, including Michigan and Vermont, cite no specific age or grade level whatsoever.
That's a violation of parents' federally guaranteed right to see their child's school records, writes Pondiscio.
Advocates say secrecy is needed to protect children from abusive parents. But the law already requires teachers to report suspected child abuse to child protective services, says attorney Vernadette Broyles of the Child and Parental Rights Campaign. “You’re not entitled to take it onto yourself as a teacher to make the judgment that somehow this parent does not share the right value system, or is going to correct or guide their child in a way that you don’t approve of.”
In addition, "the risk of suicide or self-harm" if a child's new identity isn't accepted by parents may be "overstated," writes Pondiscio.
Rates of depression, anxiety and suicidal thinking are very high for young people with gender dysphoria, notes Jay Greene, a senior Heritage fellow. It's not clear whether this stems from a failure to “affirm” a child’s gender identity or from failure to address their mental-health issues.
In a study published earlier this year, Greene concludes that lowering legal barriers for minors to undergo “gender-affirming” medical interventions, such as puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, without parental consent was associated with higher rates of suicide.
Greene supports "parental bills of rights that affirm the fact that parents have primary responsibility for their children’s education and health."
State legislators can require parental consent, writes Pondiscio, but "the far greater obstacle to reasserting parental authority over education is challenging and changing the culture of education and the mindset that tolerates and even encourages teachers to conceive of themselves as child advocates or activists."
When schools push "values and attitudes that run counter to those taught at home, exposing children to material that is ideological or age-inappropriate," parents will push back, he writes. It won't be good for public education.