Orange County

Orange Unified School District board approves gender ID notification policy

The school board approved a policy that includes several amendments since its first reading.

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The Orange Unified School District board approved a policy Thursday that requires parental notification is their children change their gender identification or pronouns at school.

The motion passed after hours of debate Thursday night during a packed school board meeting that included extensive public comment. The motion passed 4-0 with three members opting not to vote.

The board meeting came a day after a California judge halted a similar policy in the Chino Valley Unified School District. California Attorney General Rob Bonta sued the district for adopting a policy requiring schools to tell parents when their children change their pronouns or use a bathroom of a gender other than the one listed on their official paperwork.

Orange Unified's proposed policy included several amendments since its first public reading two weeks ago.

The policy will refer a student to a school counselor or psychologist if that student identifies with a gender that does not align with the gender assigned at birth. The student's parents would be notified by the school principal within five days, unless there's reason to believe doing so would harm the student or if the student is 12 years of age and older and does not consent to the disclosure.

The Orange County district has about 26,000 pre-school-through-12th grade students in the communities of Orange, Villa Park, Anaheim, Garden Grove, Santa Ana and other areas.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta explained his lawsuit agains the Chino Valley School District over its policy of notifying parents about transgender students. Conan Nolan reports Aug. 31, 2023.

In California, parental notification policies cropped up after Republican state lawmaker Bill Essayli proposed a statewide bill on the issue, but it never received a hearing in Sacramento. He then worked with school board members and the California Family Council to draft the policy that was voted on in Chino Valley.

The order involving that district halts the policy while Bonta’s lawsuit continues. During a court hearing Wednesday, the judge raised questions about why the policy came up in the first place and how it protected students.

Full details of the order were not immediately available. The next court hearing on the issue was scheduled for Oct. 13.

Earlier this year, the Spreckels Union School District in Monterey County settled a lawsuit filed on behalf of a mother who accused the school of “social transitioning” her then-11-year-old child in 2019 by allowing the student to use male pronouns and bathrooms at school without her consent. The child later re-identified as a girl, her mother has said. The district agreed to pay $100,000 but didn’t acknowledge wrongdoing, according to the Center for American Liberty, which represented the mother.

The national conversation over transgender rights has intensified as other states have sought to impose bans on gender-affirming care, bar transgender athletes from girls and women’s sports, and require schools to “out” transgender and nonbinary students to their parents.

On Wednesday, the California State Assembly voted to declare every August as Transgender History Month, the first such declaration in the nation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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