Harmful School Transgender Policies
Many children who identify as transgender make this announcement at school. They typically request a change of name and pronouns, as well as access to facilities of the opposite sex.
Parents must be informed of these requested changes in a timely manner so they can provide the proper help and support for their children. Yet many — perhaps most —schools do not notify parents of their child’s new transgender identity. These requests are granted without parental input or knowledge.
Schools have been directed by various interest groups and educational associations to keep this information from parents. They state that informing parents is not only ill-advised, but is in fact illegal.
For example, the American Civil Liberties Union has warned secondary school principals and superintendents that disclosing a student's gender identity to their parents could have "dramatic and unforeseen consequences" and "could also lead to physical abuse or homelessness." Further, the ACLU claims: “Students have the constitutional right to share or withhold information about their sexual orientation or gender identity from their parents...and it is against the law for school officials to disclose, or compel students to disclose.”
Similarly, the Position Statement by the National Association of Secondary School Principals warns:
“While it would be ideal for the parents or guardian to be supported and included in the transition process, school leaders must be mindful of protecting the student’s privacy and not creating an unsafe home climate for the student.”
The National Education Association’s guide Schools in Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools (produced in partnership with has partnered with the Human Rights Campaign, the ACLU, and Gender Spectrum) encourages schools to keep important information from parents with claims of “high rates of family rejection” stating: “Schools can play a critical role in alleviating the psychological distress caused by family rejection. The school environment may be the only place a transgender student feels safe enough to be themselves.” (p. 31.
“Whenever a transgender student initiates this process, the educator or administrator should ask whether the student’s family is accepting in order to avoid inadvertiently putting the student at risk of greater harm by discussing with the student’s family. Based on that information, the school and student should determine how to proceed...figuring out how the school can support the student and balance the student’s need to be affirmed at school with the reality that the student does not have that support at home...the goal should be to support the student’s family in accepting their child’s gender identity.... As part of this effort, it is important to educate the student’s family members about the serious consequences of refusing to affirm their child’s gender identity.” (p. 32)
“If the parents are unable to resolve the dispute amicably, it is possible that an educator or school administrator may be called to testify in court. School officials interact with the student on a daily basis...which gives school personnel unique insight into the student’s needs without the biases parents can or are perceived to have. Sharing the school’s experiences with the student before and after the student began identifying as transgender can help highlight to the judge the importance of affirming the student’s gender identity.” (p. 34)
The NEA Guide includes Gender Spectrum’s “Gender Transition Plan,” which does not require parental knowledge or input and states that these plans should be included in the Individualized Education Programs and Section 504 Plans of special needs students. “Not including the modifications and accommodations needed to respect and affirm the student’s gender identity guarantees that the educational program created by the IEP or Section 504 team will fail to meet the school’s legal obligations to that student.”
The New Jersey Department of Education’s Transgender Student Guidance for School Districts. defers to students’ wishes about names, pronoun use, and access to sex-segregated facilities. The Guidance encourages schools to “be mindful” of parents who do not support their child’s new gender identity by referring them to the Child, Abuse, Neglect, and Missing Children webpage. (p. 3).