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California Senate passes ban on parental notification for TK-12 gender changes

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The California Senate passed a bill that would ban parental notification for gender changes in public TK-12 and provide more resources to increase parental support of LGBTQ pupils. While parents broadly support disclosure rules and have approved them in many school districts, state leaders, including the attorney general — who has supported lawsuits against districts with disclosure rules — say these efforts harm transgender children.

In the past year, school districts across California have adopted measures requiring parents to be notified if their children request to officially change their pronouns, go by a different name, or use facilities or school programs for children of the opposite gender.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta has responded by supporting lawsuits against these school districts, with California State Superintendent Tony Thurmond supporting Assembly Bill 1955, a bill just passed by the California Senate and heading to the Assembly that would ban these parental notification requirements.

“AB 1955 protects our LGBTQ+ youth from increased risk of bullying and harassment, and it affirms families’ ability to handle family matters at home without school employees being forced to intervene,” said Thurmond in a statement. “The SAFETY Act will allow our teachers to focus on teaching academic skills – not on policing gender identity.”

Parental rights advocates maintain that this bill would likely be found unconstitutional and undermines children’s health and the trust between schools and parents.

“Notifying and involving parents for something as paramount as socially transitioning a child at school is critical for the well-being of children and for maintaining trust between schools and parents,” Jonathan Zachreson, whose Protect Kids California organization is collecting signatures for a statewide ballot initiative requiring parental notification, told to The Center Square.

Liberty Justice Center, a legal nonprofit representing two California school districts and Protect Kids California in various cases against the state, reiterated their support for parental rights and said it would fight AB 1955 in court when it likely passes.

“Parents have a right to know what their own minor children are doing at school – and school officials have no right to keep secrets from parents,” said Liberty Justice Center President Jacob Huebert in a statement. “We will continue to stand with parents and the school districts that want to respect their rights – and we’ll continue to represent them free of charge, at no cost to taxpayers.”

While parental rights advocates focus on the trust between parents and the schools, LGBTQ advocates focus on trust between students and schools.

“Teachers should not be the gender police and violate the trust and safety of the students in their classrooms,” Assemblymember Christopher Ward, D-San Diego, who authored the bill, said. “Parents should be talking to their children, and the decision for a student to come out to their family members should be on their own terms. The SAFETY Act simply ensures that conversations about gender identity and sexuality happen at home without interference from others outside of the family unit.”

Earlier this year, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service stopped administering puberty blocking hormones to transgender minors, saying there is “not enough evidence to support the safety or clinical effectiveness” of such procedures. The United States Supreme Court has recently supported the constitutionality of state laws banning gender hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery for transgender minors, suggesting parental rights advocates may have the upper hand if AB 1955 passes and a legal challenge goes to trial.