‘Distress, confusion’: U.S. lawmakers push to ban secret pronoun changes, keep parents involved

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(Photo by Aedrian on Unsplash)
(Photo by Aedrian on Unsplash)

By Reagan Reese
Daily Caller News Foundation

  • Lawmakers have introduced legislation on the state and federal level to prohibit schools from hiding students’ gender transitions in response to a lawsuit from a California mom who alleges her daughter began to secretly transition at a California school.
  • Aurora Regino is suing Chico Unified School District after a counselor allegedly helped her 10-year-old daughter secretly transition genders at school.
  • “Before this happened to my daughter and our family, I wouldn’t have believed that this would happen, especially at the elementary school level. So I think it’s very important to figure out ways to let parents know what’s going on. That’s where I stand,” Regino told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

A U.S. lawmaker introduced legislation to Congress on Wednesday that would require schools to receive parental permission before a student changes their pronouns, a response to a lawsuit by a parent whose daughter allegedly began to secretly transition genders at a California school.

The “Prohibiting Parental Secrecy Policies in Schools Act,” sponsored by Republican California Rep. Doug LaMalfa, would withhold federal funding from schools if they do not implement policies which require parental permission before a student can change their name or pronouns at school. The legislation was drafted as a response lawsuit from Aurora Regino, who is suing Chico Unified School District after a counselor allegedly helped her daughter secretly transition genders, LaMalfa told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

“[Regino] came and talked to my team. My heart went out to her as we talked,” LaMalfa told the DCNF. “This is her daughter and the school system is trying to align things in such a way that kids shouldn’t trust their parents. Well, who should they trust? Nine-to-five bureaucrats or the person that’s with them seven days a week otherwise? It puts a wedge between kids and their parents — that’s pretty messed up.”

The Center for American Liberty filed a lawsuit on behalf of Regino in January after she found out that a school counselor had allegedly been helping her 10-year-old daughter transition genders, convincing the girl to use he/him pronouns and a male name at school. The counselor, whom Regino never met, had allegedly advised Regino’s daughter that she was a boy and to “come out” to other people before telling her mother, Regino told the DCNF.

The California Department of Education guidance prohibits school districts from telling parents if their child has changed their name or pronouns at school, a policy which Chico Unified School District has adopted, Regino told the DCNF.

“I spent a lot of time within our own district trying to plead to them to stop what they were doing, that it was actually harmful to my daughter, what they did, not beneficial,” Regino told the DCNF. “I was just trying to plead with them to make sure that this didn’t happen to another child. That it was actually very harmful, that she was just having some distress or some confusion and that she didn’t even understand what being transgender meant, or what it would entail to even come out and transition. She didn’t know the repercussions or the challenges that she would have to face.”

In response to the lawsuit, Chico Unified School District noted that it cannot discuss ongoing legal matters but will answer any questions that parents have regarding the district’s policies and curriculum, according to Action News Now.

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“In regard to the lawsuit, we value our community and will thoroughly review and investigate any claims,” the school district said in a statement to the outlet. “As you know, Chico Unified continues to focus on family engagement and works hard to maintain open and transparent communication. We highly value the relationships our families have built with their schools.”

In addition to the federal legislation, Republican California state Rep. Bill Essayli introduced legislation on Monday in response to the suit which would give public school administration three days to alert parents, in writing, if their child is changing their name and pronouns. The legislation would also require school districts to notify parents if their child is joining a sports team or using a bathroom or locker that does not correspond with their biological sex.

“There’s two bills currently pending at the state and federal level to address this issue,” Eric Sell, Regino’s attorney, told the DCNF. “Frankly, this is incredibly important legislation, because this is happening across the country. It’s happening in California and Maine. It’s happening in Idaho. It’s happening everywhere. There’s this notion out there that kids need these safe spaces to adopt these new gender identities, and that schools should provide the safe space for them and keep it all secret from parents. But these schools are playing with fire. This is really dangerous stuff.”

In Maine, a mom is demanding an investigation into a school district that allegedly hid her 13-year-old daughter’s gender transition and secretly provided the child with multiple chest binders, a tool used to flatten breasts. Parents Defending Education, a group advocating for parental rights in education, is suing an Idaho school district that adopted a “Transgender and Students Nonconforming to Gender Role Stereotypes” policy in August which allows students to hide their gender transitions from their parents.

LaMalfa expects the “Prohibiting Parental Secrecy Policies in Schools Act” to pass the U.S. House of Representatives in 2023, he told the DCNF. The U.S. Senate, however, has a Democratic majority, as does the California House and Senate, where the legislation is opposed, according to local channel KRCR News.

“All of these bills are attacks on trans kids and LGBTQ kids in general and are going to lead to violence against these kids and increased risk of suicide. To pass a law that a school would out these kids before they’re ready to tell their parents, that is despicable,” Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener told KRCR about the introduced legislation. “These kids will come out to their parents when they’re ready to come out to their parents and it’s none of anyone else’s business when they decide to come out.”

House Republicans have also introduced a piece of legislation aimed at increasing parental rights within the nation’s classrooms; the legislation would require school districts to provide parents with the curriculum and reading materials and the system’s budget and spending plan.

“Before this happened to my daughter and our family, I wouldn’t have believed that this would happen, especially at the elementary school level,” Regino told the DCNF. “So I think it’s very important to figure out ways to let parents know what’s going on. That’s where I stand.”

Essayli and Chico Unified School District did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

This story originally was published by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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