Murrieta school board could rescind — or rework — transgender notification policy

Rule, opposed by LGBTQ advocates, requires parents to be told if a child identifies as transgender

Murrieta’s school board could revise — if not scuttle — a policy requiring parents to be told if their child identifies as transgender seven months after passing it.

File photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG

An item on the Thursday, March 28, Murrieta Valley Unified School District board agenda would rescind the policy, one of at least several passed by California school boards that have divided parents, spurred lawsuits and brought the culture wars to public education.

In an emailed statement, the district said Superintendent Ward Andrus placed the item on the agenda “for consideration recognizing the well-publicized actions and challenges related to this specific board policy in districts throughout California.”

As Andrus’ explanation in the agenda states, “‘the district regularly reviews and updates its policies to comply with current law or district circumstances.’ As such he has brought the item forward,” the district’s statement added.

But in a telephone interview, Murrieta school board President Paul Diffley said the item is meant to give the board time to revise the policy’s language to make it clearer and able to withstand a legal challenge. Diffley said he’ll propose tabling the item Thursday and taking it up again at the next board meeting.

“I think we need to go back and revisit it for one meeting,” he said. “I want to make sure we do the best that we can do.”

Between now and then, Diffley, who along with board member Nick Pardue proposed the policy, said board members will address the opening part of the policy, which outlines reasons why the district wants to notify parents about their child’s gender identity.

Diffley added that the district shares lawyers with Chino Valley Unified School District, which enacted a similar policy, and the changes the Murrieta board is considering come at the advice of attorneys, which warned that “going ahead (with the policy) in such an environment” could cost the district $500,000 in legal expenses.

“I can’t justify doing that at this point because that’s pencil and paper and crayon money,” he said.

Former Murrieta school board member Kris Thomasian, co-chair of One Temecula Valley PAC’s Murrieta Schools Team, supports rescinding the policy.

“We are hopeful that the MVUSD board will kill the destructive forced outing policy, a politically motivated sideshow, which is proving to be harmful to school districts up and down the state,” Thomasian said in a statement from the PAC, which opposes what it describes as political extremism in local government.

She added: “In the face of statewide budget cuts, (the school district) can’t afford to suffer heavy fines or financial penalties for a few irresponsible school board members to solve a problem that doesn’t exist for culture war and partisan political clout.”

The Murrieta school board voted 3-2 in August to approve the policy, which requires staff to notify parents or guardians within three days of learning that a student is “requesting to be identified or treated” as a gender other than the “biological sex or gender” listed on their birth certificate or other official records.

Students requesting to use names, pronouns, bathrooms or changing facilities that don’t align with their birth gender would trigger the policy, as would a student taking part in a sports team or sex-segregated program that doesn’t correspond to their birth gender.

The board’s August vote came after more than 60 public speakers supported or assailed the policy. Supporters, including Christian conservatives, said schools have no right to withhold information from parents about their children.

Critics, including LGBTQ advocates, countered that the policy infringes on student privacy and could endanger children whose parents aren’t accepting of their gender identity.

Murrieta schools’ policy mirrors one passed in July by Chino Valley’s board. Schools boards in TemeculaOrange and other California public school districts have passed virtually identical policies.

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