Brian Mittge Commentary: Why Are So Many Parents Upset Over Gender Policy?

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This week dozens of parents expressed concern for a new “gender-inclusive schools” policy adopted by the Chehalis School Board. The board members, saying they had no choice under state law, approved the policy and procedure on first reading, setting it up for final approval next month.

Chehalis got stuck with the headlines, but this actually has been happening across Lewis County and all of Washington state. According to data from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), acquired through a public records request by a concerned local grandparent, nearly every district in Lewis County has adopted more or less identical policy and procedures regarding transgender students.

The policy was adopted quietly in most districts. Chehalis school officials only saw an outcry because the district was unlucky enough (or perhaps fortunate, if you believe in democratic participation in local government) to have a sharp-eyed parent who noticed the innocuous-sounding item on the agenda last month. Other districts didn’t have to endure such public scrutiny. Maybe their leaders didn’t even read the policy closely, since it was packaged by the Legislature as merely a new update to state anti-discrimination policies.

So why are so many parents so upset?

Well, first of all, because the state mandates go far beyond simple anti-discrimination, despite legislative efforts to package it as such.

The mandate for “gender-inclusive schools” comes from a 2019 law, Senate Bill 5689, that had the title “Concerning harassment, intimidation, bullying, and discrimination in public schools.”

Passed as a new chapter in the state’s school anti-discrimination law, the bill hints at its actual purpose when it directs OSPI to write training manuals that will help lead to “cultural change.”

This bill sets out to remake schools and the relationship between students and parents. Along the way it also works to diminish the role of local school boards in developing policies and procedures for their communities.

The “model policy” dictated by the state law was written by OSPI and the Washington State School Directors Association (WSSDA). Its many detailed requirements aren’t really related to anti-discrimination. Instead, it lays out a detailed list of rules to change how schools handle “communication and the use of names and pronouns, student records, confidential health and education information, communication, restroom and locker room use and accessibility, sports and physical education, dress codes, and other school activities.”

The details for exactly how school and parent-student life will be rearranged comes from the “model procedure.”

The very first paragraph dictates that students can ban school leaders from communicating with their parents about their gender choices. If a student doesn’t want his or her parents to know that a new pronoun or name is being used in schools, then the schools are prohibited from informing the parents about a student's move toward a transgender or gender-expansive self-concept.

In fact, the policy said, telling a parent about a student’s new pronoun or preferred name “could be very dangerous.”

The idea that being told about important changes in their child’s life could be “very dangerous” upset many parents.

Having inserted the state into the parent-student relationship, the law now turns to restrooms and changing rooms.

“Students will be allowed to use the restroom that corresponds to the gender identity they assert at school,” the model policy states. “No student will be required to use a restroom that conflicts with their gender identity ... schools may not require a student to use an alternative restroom because of their transgender or gender-expansive status.”

The state mandates that on overnight trips, “students will be permitted to participate in accordance with the gender identity they assert at school.”

Being told that their daughters and sons cannot be guaranteed a sex-specific restroom space or hotel room on overnight trips upset many parents.

Districts do have some latitude on this issue when it comes to locker rooms. The language provided by the state said “in most cases, the district should provide the student access to the locker room that corresponds to the gender identity they assert at school” but for locker rooms only, districts do have some discretion about allowing biological males into female spaces and vice versa.

There’s much more in the policy and procedures that were of concern, and I doubt this will be the last state law that aims to remake our public schools. Upcoming issues include adoption of comprehensive sex education curricula and the possible creation of school-based health centers, which could offer reproductive health services — again, without informing parents.

School board members would be wise to start talking across district lines with one another now and begin building up an information network about new legislative proposals and whether the time would ever come for a coordinated response.

One possible angle is that the law in this case directs OSPI and WSSDA to regularly review the “model” policy and procedures. Every school board member in the state is a member of WSSDA. Maybe with a concerted cross-state effort, local school board members could make a difference in that group. Concerned parents could also let their feelings be known to Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal.

Washington’s public school system has been based for more than a century on the idea of local control, but today’s Legislature seems to be changing that to a top-down model, with the threat of pulling state funding as their big stick. If parents and local school board members don’t like that, they’d better get busy in Olympia telling their legislators so. I worry that schools will have a harder time passing levies and bonds because local districts are blamed for top-down decisions the state forces local elected officials to implement.

In this case, the state bill that forced schools to adopt wide-ranging policies on gender expansiveness could have addressed discrimination, as it purported to do. It could have said that no one of any gender will be bullied or harassed, and that every student in every school must be treated with simple dignity.

But this bill didn’t do that.

Instead it laid out detailed rules aimed at changing the most fundamental concepts of gender among the young people in every town, large and small, across the state.

Which is probably why one father stood up at this week’s meeting and said that since he will homeschool his children, district policy won’t directly affect them. But it will, he said, change the nature of the community in which they live.

And that is why parents are upset.

•••

Brian Mittge can be reached at brianmittge@hotmail.com.

Comments

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Grndma

Brian Mittge,

I'm so glad you told the whole story! We are being hurled into socialism, and, though they don't know it yet, our children will pay dearly. Our Constitution is being shredded.

There is always a way to find a solution for LGBTQ+ members. Taking other students and parents rights away is extreme, and could never result in a peaceful society. I have to say, I feel sorry for everyone involved...except for the tyrannical State.

Thank you!

Friday, July 23
Thalia0Melpomene

So let me get this right. A child who is intrinsicly male that identifies as a female uses the female restroom, but in gym class uses the male locker room. Doesn't that create the situation of making him/her the spectacle the State believes it will avoid? Is it not a little early, when a child doesn't even have sexual preference, for the State to drive this life decision? Why is the state involved with anything that goes on between the legs?

Saturday, July 24
Grandpa

Hey Grndma, this has nothing to do with socialism. Please do some research on what socialism actually is before you make ridiculous comments.

Sunday, July 25
emriley

So you are all worried that a transgender kid is going to scar your children. Are you kidding? Kids are awful and mean. You should be worried about the abuse4 that child has to go through at the hands of your children. And yes I know that none of your kids would ever be mean like that, not your kid they are just too nice. If a kid is going through this they are already traumatized to know that they are different. They often think that they are the only ones and that something is wrong with them. They will be bullied and abused. They will be beaten by the other, and often older kids. As far as telling the parents, that's up to the kid to come out to their families. You don't know their situation. There could be an abusive parent at home. It is not uncommon even in 2021 that kids in the LGBTQ plus category are often kicked out of their homes and become homeless and are at risk for being even more abused, raped, and even murdered. Nearly 40 % of homeless youth fall into this category. If you want to help your children explain to them what's going on and help them set their own rules. For example if they see this girl go in to the girls restroom they can either wait of go in if they are comfortable. They may know this child and last time I checked unlike the boys bathroom the stalls have doors on them with locks. I would hope that this community would be kinder and not fly off the handle at even the slightest societal change. The change that change in society is that that person can live their life without worry of walking down the street, going to the grocery store, and yes even finding a mate just like everyone else. Transgender women, especially black women are being murdered at an alarming rate. I had problems with some of the pronoun stuff too, and then I decided that if it made someone more comfortable then it's no skin off of my nose. I'd rather be known as someone who is kind and loving. This world has enough of the jerks, especially lately, and I don't want to one of them.

These issues, transgender youth and Critical Race Theory, are brought up to divert peoples attention. Usually some crap a politician or party are doing or not doing. Are there really that many transgender kids around here? And for God sake, Critical Race Theory is a law shcool course exploring how the tenants of slavery have left over threads of discrimination still left in our institutions. It isn't and never was taught to any kids at any school, It isn't about making anyone feel bad about being white. It's about how black people still have unnecassory hurdles to overcome. Instead of feeling bad, how 'bout we listen and try and fix some of these things. Housing and the disparety in education would be good places to start. We shouldn't feel guilty about what our ancestors have done but make the generations to come proud of how we acted in these times once we became aware of them.

emriley

Sunday, July 25
partsgirl

This is disgusting. The idea that kids can pretend to be what they aren't and it can't be discussed with parents makes me sick. If I had school age children they would not go to public school in Washington State.

Monday, July 26
Grndma

Dear Grandpa, it has everything to do with socialism, marxism, and communism all rolled into one neat little package that takes away our right to even have an opinion. If our kids are forced to change despite what they are taught by parents, that is socialist behavior. I'm not fighting against gender identity. Be what you want to be! I'm against losing parental rights.

Tuesday, August 3
Grndma

emriley, I understand children can be mean. I was beaten and bullied constantly by black kids throughout my childhood. I have seen the racism on both sides. I think we need to have parent/community conferences where we bring our children and talk to each other. The government needs to "step off". We can't solve our problems with force. We can solve them by looking in each others eyes. This is what the government takes away from us. Most people have compassion for alternative genders. The point that is missed, people have a right NOT to agree or accept gender identity. It's in the Constitution along with the freedoms of speech which aren't covered in the Bill of Rights, like hate, threats, and defamation. No one should be forced. We can find a way to accommodate everyone without taking away frim others. If you're still not convinced I have compassion and understanding, I want you to know, my brother was confused about his sexual identity all his life and died of AIDS. I watched him struggle, then I unplugged him from life support. Also, two of my closest friends are a lesbian couple. You wouldn't even know they are gay because they go about their lives in a normal fashion and they aren't drama queens seeking attention. You have to admit, a lot of people are just too "in your face" these days. That's the only thing that bothers me. "Judge by ones character"....right?

If you think CRT isn't being taught, I can tell you I watched videos (before youtube took them down).

I have always been kind to everyone and I refuse to pay for something I or my ancestors never did. This is a pure example of punishing the masses for the acts of a few.

With Respect!

Tuesday, August 3
sixtoecallico

First.... I compliment Brian for he has always seemed to the be the commentary of reason for the chronicle. But this issue has come close to home and his ability to see both sided has slipped. Brian isn't explaining why parents, like they are some distant group, are upset. He is explaining why he is upset.. A group of parents have been attending school board meetings on a regular basis to attempt to influence the school board to vote more favorably to their view. What his group seems to have wanted was for the board not to pass the policy on gender-inclusiveness that under legal council they were charged to do. Did you catch that?.... legally they had to pass the policy.

Knowing Brian & and Sarah like I think I do, I don't think they fit this group. But some of the concerns of parents seem to be very similar to those stated by white parents when the government forced integration.of blacks into white schools. Everybody got hung up on bathrooms. Parents are upset because the mores of our society seems to be changing. People they don't understand, and can't fathom within the realm of nornal are seeping into our culture.. They believe that sin and sinners are being "allowed" to ruin our schools . They believe our values have been and should be supreme and now others want theirs accepted as well. For those who are loosing power that breeds fear amd anger.

If the concern is over state top down control of our school, people should be contacting their senators, representatives, OSPI, and the governor and stop picking on the local school board which is at the bottom of the governance structure. They are after all your neighbors and are doing the best they can with what control they are given. Brian makes it sound like our board is in cahoots with the state OSPI and WSSDA to under mine local values. Did Brian interview any of the school board members about this topic? Pershaps they are more in his corner than he has been led to believe.

Please Brian, climb back up onto your horse of reason.

Monday, August 9
Bruce

Once again the legislature has removed parents from their children's lives. Last year it was sex education, this year it's gender identity, before that it was abortion. The state has been slowly usurping our rights and responsibilities as parents. I would suggest that everyone have a good look at 1930's Germany and the Nazis. Or Russia at any time since the first of the 20th century. Want to change the politics and identity of your nation? Take over the rearing of the children.

Friday, August 13