Should Schools Be Allowed to Deceive Parents?

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I trust most children to accurately know if they’re hungry, cold, or need a bathroom. I don’t trust children to accurately know if they require medicine, should take math class, or need to lose weight.

Do you?

I trust children to know if they feel uncomfortable, unhappy, lonely, isolated, or different. I don’t trust children to know the best ways to resolve those feelings (it’s our job to teach them). And the more extreme their suggestions are, the less we should trust them.

I don’t trust children to accurately know if they need gender reassignment, which is a colossal response to (generally legitimate) emotional needs that they typically don’t understand.

If a kid insisted that their solution to feeling weird or unhappy in their own skin was to cut off a finger, we’d recoil in horror, and refuse to do it. This would NOT be disrespecting the child’s reality. It would be a responsible reaction to the kid’s distress—protecting them from their own primitive beliefs in response to strong unwanted feelings. Whether they realize it or not, kids depend on us for that.

Which brings us to school.

I urge you to read Abigail Shrier’s latest piece, “Should Public Schools be Allowed to Deceive Parents?” She describes “Gender Support Plans” that an increasing number of school districts (including Chicago, Albuquerque, and Las Vegas) are using to guide school personnel in communicating with students.

The most distressing part of this is that parents are sometimes left out of the plan; that is, some schools deliberately create two sets of documents about students—an alternate-gender-focussed one for internal school use, and an ordinary one for parents. Some parents are thus actively deceived about the special gender-focussed way their child is being treated at school.

Traumatic Math Class?

Just imagine if a 10-year-old decided that taking math class was terribly traumatic, and the sympathetic school arranged for the kid to be excused from it—and not only did so without the parents’ input, but then lied to parents by implying the kid was taking the class. Everyone would think this outrageous (even people who hate math).

The forms used to establish these plans are far from neutral—they promote an alternative-gendered view of the child from the start. They use expressions such as student’s gender identity; student’s assigned sex at birth; student’s gender status; and student’s authentic gender. These are part of an ideological narrative, not descriptions of childhood distress.

Further, these forms and the resulting plans evaluate parents’ support of a child’s alternative-gender story. Parents are rated on a scale of 1-10, from “not at all supportive” to “highly supportive.” With terrible chutzpah, the Plan asks: “If parental support level is low, what considerations must be accounted for in implementing this plan?”

In other words, how do we get around the parents in implementing a child’s decisions about their gender identity? Imagine that you’re the parent or guardian of a child who insists on adjusting a fundamental part of their life—and that your child’s school is wondering how to implement a helpful plan despite your lack of support. It’s a chilling thought.

Note that many schools now have a process for changing a student’s name and gender description in their Health Record—which can be done without parental permission, and without informing a parent.

Gender Support Plans also evaluate “How urgent is the student’s need? Is the child currently experiencing distress regarding their gender?”

Note that there’s no psychiatric, medical, or other professional evaluation of what’s actually bothering a child once they declare their upset is about gender identity. With this school Plan, they are simply “reaffirmed.” “Distress,” of course, is a pretty low bar (and isn’t defined), especially for children. Imagine a different scenario: what if a kid is experiencing “distress” about wearing glasses, or being short, or being Italian—are they handled with a confidential Support Plan?

Kids typically do not get to address the assembly about “I’m adopted” or “I’m let-handed in a right-handed world.” Today’s evolving approach privileges issues of gender above all other aspects of a kid’s life, and it doesn’t question if gender change/affirmation is the right response to a kid’s distress.

All a kid has to do to get adult attention in school now is to see gender issues as the solution to their problems. As we know, when children are unhappy, they’ll grab at any domain that adults currently value—and in today’s schools, that means gender.

School Admin 101

How would most people feel if a child were continually bullied at school, and the school decided to handle it without notifying the parents? Or if the kid were flunking most classes, or had a behavior problem? Here’s School Administration 101: Don’t hide things from parents.

The first step in dealing with children who are unhappy about their gender is to understand their unhappiness, NOT to agree with their self-diagnosis and to affirm their idea about how to resolve their anguish. Affirming that gender is the problem and the solution for any child who says so creates demonstrable harm for most children. People routinely overlook that when discussing the harm suffered by trans or non-binary kids who are forced to postpone their gender or identity transition until they turn 18.

It is NOT transphobia to treat kids who genderize their distress the same as kids who develop other sweeping strategies to resolve their distress. It may gratify school officials or political activists, but it doesn’t take kids’ struggles seriously enough, and it’s disrespectful to parents.

If changing gender identity is indeed the best or only way to deal with a kid’s distress, it will become clear within just a few years of investigating various approaches and solutions. Assuming that it’s the best or only approach to childhood unhappiness without looking at a wide range of less intrusive, less life-altering interventions is bad education, bad medicine, bad therapy, and bad public policy.
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