Classical Academies changes policy protecting transgender students over legal concerns
A charter school network in North County said it recently dropped its policy protecting transgender students’ privacy due to a lawsuit threat.
The Classical Academies, a charter school network serving more than 5,300 students in North County, changed its policy at a board meeting on Oct. 30.
Classical chief executive officer Cameron Curry said the school changed its policy after a threat of legal action by a constitutional lawyer.
“After reviewing the preliminary injunctions issued in recent cases against Chino Valley Unified School District and Escondido Union School District, it was clear that our policy was very similar to the one enjoined by the federal court in the Escondido case," he said in a statement to KPBS. "This made keeping the old policy language untenable.”
Dean Broyles was the attorney in question. He said there was no threat, only that he was informing the board of the legal consequences as a concerned parent. His wife teaches at Classical and his children attend school there.
"We didn't specifically threaten a lawsuit against Classical Academy over their 'parent secrets' policy." Broyles said. "But we did inform them that their policy was unconstitutional and needed to be changed."
Broyles is an attorney with the National Center for Law & Policy who urged the Chino Valley Unified School District to adopt its mandatory gender identity disclosure policy.
A California Superior Court judge recently blocked the policy, saying it violated California's constitution and anti-discrimination laws.
Classical’s old policy didn't allow teachers or staff to disclose a student's gender identity to anyone, including the student’s parents, without the student’s consent.
It’s the same policy that got the Escondido Union School District sued. Two teachers there said it was against their religious beliefs to lie to parents. A federal judge recently ruled that the policy was “likely unconstitutional.”
The lawsuit is under review by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The issue was front and center at Tuesday night’s Escondido Union High School District's meeting. During a presentation on the district's parental notification policy, Board Member Bob Weller asked, “How do we protect children from life-long decisions without their being parents involved?”
The Escondido Union School District lawsuit and ruling were brought up several times by Weller.
Classical’s new policy requires parents to be notified if students change their pronouns or names to match their gender identity. Max Disposti from the North County LGBTQ Resource Center called that "forced outings."
“Even a student with a family that's supported, needs their own time to be able to come out — it's their story to tell. It's no one else's story to be disclosed," he said. "And that's really a basic privacy protection that the state of California has guaranteed for many, many years.”
Disposti said research has shown that trans students' mental health fare better when schools are safe grounds for their gender journey. Nikki Faddick, a parent at Classical, agreed.
She said her rights were not violated under the old policy, but the new policy is deeply concerning for her children and their friends.
“It creates an aura of distrust around relationships that kids had previously felt were safe spaces on campus with trusted adults, teachers, counselors, that now they're questioning, 'Are these safe spaces? Will my confidential information be shared without my permission?'” Faddick said.
Broyles said that fear is overblown as there's "no epidemic of children struggling with gender dysphoria being abused or kicked out of their homes by their parents."
He said the core of the issue is a parent’s right to know.
“For over a hundred years, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the 14th Amendment includes the recognition of the fundamental right of parents to direct the care, education and upbringing of their children,” he said.
Classical said the new policy strengthens support for students.