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Chico school board votes to keep current policy protecting trans student privacy

North State Congressman Doug LaMalfa speaks to the board at the Chico Unified School District meeting.
Chico Unified School District Board of Education
North State Congressman Doug LaMalfa speaks to the board at the Chico Unified School District meeting.

At the Chico Unified School District Board of Education meeting April 5, all eyes were on one issue — whether or not the district would require staff to notify parents if a student 11 or younger identified as transgender or nonbinary.

Under the district’s current policy, counselors can't disclose a student's gender identity without the student's consent.

The board began reassessing its policies earlier this year after a parent filed a lawsuit against the district claiming its policy violated her constitutional rights when school officials didn't tell her about her child's gender identity.

However, according to the California Department of Education, California’s anti-discrimination laws as well as federal laws give students the right to keep their gender identity private.

At the meeting, the board considered options for new policies. Under one proposed policy, staff would be required to notify parents unless students explained why it would harm them.

Christine Leistner, human sexuality researcher and assistant professor at Chico State, said that forcibly outing trans youth would put them at risk.

"This is why all students, no matter their age, deserve the right to privacy,” Leistner told the board during public comment. “This need for autonomy, to decide when and how to communicate information about themselves to their parents is for their own safety."

Arecent survey by the Trevor Project, an LGBTQ research and advocacy group, found that LGBTQ youth who feel affirmed at school report lower rates of attempting suicide. The survey also found that just under a third of transgender and nonbinary youth find their home gender-affirming. Meanwhile, about half said their school is.

Northern California Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) spoke against the school's current policy.

"Schools have really overstepped their bounds, overstepped their responsibilities,” LaMalfa said. “You're breaking the trust you have with parents here in Chico and all over the state."

In March, LaMalfa introduced a federal bill that would prohibit schools from accommodating a student's gender identity without parental permission.

After a presentation from staff and over two hours of public comment, the board voted 3-2 to leave the current policy intact, unless or until there is further legal or legislative action surrounding the issue. That means staff will still need a student's permission to disclose their gender identity to parents.

Alec Stutson grew up in Colorado and graduated from the University of Missouri with degrees in Radio Journalism, 20th/21st Century Literature, and a minor in Film Studies. He is a huge podcast junkie, as well as a movie nerd and musician.