A new policy out of Washington state seeks to force teachers to hide any students’ gender transitions from their parents or guardians unless the student themselves give explicit consent to tell their parents.
The seemingly obvious effects of this new policy on the children is starting to come to a head, but the policy itself has their hands legally tied, stated one teacher who requested anonymity out of fear of retribution from the state.
This brand new policy crops up from the state’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), which is the main agency overseeing public education throughout Washington state.
In one section titled “Communicating with Families” in OSPI’s “Gender-Inclusive Schools” guidelines, the group issued a warning 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,” continued the agency.
Due to this, teachers are not allowed to inform the student’s parents about the status of their transgender status unless they get explicit consent from the student to share even the smallest bit of that information, states the Civil Rights Guidelines of the agency.
“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,” reads the guidelines.
As a way to avoid “unintentionally outing the student at home,” all teachers should pull aside and ask their transgender kids which pronouns, name, and gender designation should be utilized when speaking with their parents or guardians, OSPI states. The transgender status of a student could be “confidential medical or education information,” and speaking about it, even to the parents of the child, could be in violation of privacy laws, explains the agency.
“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 continues.
These new guidelines directly apply to all k-12 schools, which could potentially affect kids all the way down to the 5-year-olds in kindergarten. OSPI states that the age and grade level of a student “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,” stated Katy Payne, the OSPI Executive Director of Communications.