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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

When Harry became Sally: Parents have a right to know

Virginia's new transgender guidelines protect parents' rights to know whether their child is being counseled to change names and genders, writes Andrew J. Rotherham of Eduwonk, who serves on the state board of education.

"As of today there are about 59,000 public comments (many of those from bots) but the Department of Education page that has the actual proposed guidelines has been visited about 7,000 times since they were released," he writes.

The key issue is "whether schools can socially transition students identifying as transgender while concealing it, or related counseling, from parents," Rotherham writes. The old guidelines under Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, let teachers decide. The new guidelines, under Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin say parents must be informed.

Rotherham thinks that makes sense.

Look, outside of exceptional circumstances concealing information from parents is wildly unpopular with parents. And also with voters in general. We’re not just talking about high school students, we’re talking about younger children as well. So it’s awful politics. . . . It erodes trust in schools at at time we can ill-afford it, it’s not agreed upon best practice, and it will create a backlash.
. . . In a piece on the mutually assured destruction approach to culture wars, David French pointed out, in California you can get medical treatment to change your gender without parent consent but you can’t get a piercing. In Virginia, you can’t change your name in school as a minor but past a certain age you can, for instance, get birth control, STD testing, and substance abuse treatment without parental consent.

We're very confused on what rights 14-18-year-olds should have, writes Rotherham. The "toxicity" of the debate isn't help.

In part 2, focusing on teachers' rights, Rotherham asks if teachers can be required to use a student's preferred pronouns. Two cases in Virginia deal with this. He links to the ACLU’s amicus brief, which makes the argument for requiring pronoun use, and the argument for the teacher.

"Fewer than four in ten parents think teachers should be required to use preferred pronouns," according to polling, he writes. "Fifty-six percent of Democrats say teachers should be fired for not using pronouns. I’m pretty sure that’s more than say they should be let go because their students aren’t learning."

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Oct 18, 2022

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