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Should Parents Be Told?

 By David Haldane

July 27, 2023


It seems like a question with a simple answer.

If a child exhibits symptoms of mental illness in school, should the parents be told? Most reasonable people—especially those with children—would probably say yes.

And yet, that precise issue was the subject of fiery debate at a recent California school board meeting sparking the ejection of a state official, adamant editorials, fierce name-calling, and threats of intervention by the state’s attorney general. The reason for all the hubbub? The mental disorder in question is gender dysphoria, a condition viewed by many on the left as a choice, not an ailment, even for children.

“I don’t mind being thrown out of a board meeting,” State Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurmond said after the board president ordered him removed for speaking too long. “What I can’t accept is the mistreatment of vulnerable students…”

Added Rob Bonta, California’s first Filipino American attorney general: “Our schools should be protecting the rights of all students.”

What he was talking about was last week’s vote by the Chino Valley school board to involve parents in discussions regarding their children’s gender dysphoria, defined by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as “a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender” often resulting in severe distress or unhappiness. At issue: the board’s decision requiring school officials to notify parents if their child identifies as transgender, seeks a name or pronoun change, or requests access to gender-based facilities out-of-sync with his or her biological gender.

A policy which, Bonta concluded, “strips [children] of their freedom, violate[s] their autonomy, and potentially put[s] them in a harmful situation” requiring state intervention.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe gender dysphoria is real and children suffering from it deserve every available medical and psychological consideration. What I and most other parents I know do not believe, however, is that decisions regarding their welfare ought to be made by school officials or the state without parental knowledge and participation. Wait, I’ll go even further: to do so is tantamount to the actions of authoritarian states throughout history that most Americans rightly deplore.

“It is morally repugnant that they think parents shouldn’t be involved with their children,” one parent told the Orange County Register.

And yet my own San Bernardino County has become the focal point of a ferocious national debate pitting those favoring parental rights against transgender idealogues. The bottom line: the idealogues don’t trust parents to make “correct” decisions regarding their potentially transgender offspring.

Which also happens to represent a complete rejection of one of the founding principles of American education, the primacy of local control. School boards, after all, are elected by the people they serve to act on their behalf. The latest skirmish came after another Southern California school district—Temecula Valley Unified—adopted a curriculum excluding a textbook it considered inappropriate for young children due to alleged homosexual content. The board later reversed its decision, however, after California Gov. Gavin Newsom threatened to impose a $1.5 million fine and forcibly send the books to students’ homes at taxpayers’ expense.

School board members “have yet again proven they are more interested in breaking the law than doing their jobs of educating children,” Newsom declared, “so the state will do their job for them.”

Let me say up front that I have not read the textbook in question, nor do I have any transgender children. But the way American democracy works, for those who’ve forgotten, is that you elect people to act on your behalf and then, finding those actions disagreeable, take it up in the next election. As for my children, well, if any were transgender I would certainly want to know. Because only then could I consult with knowledgeable and trusted experts to decide on a course of action based, not on ideology, but on what’s best for my kid.

Anything less would be a slap-in-the-face, not only to my parental rights but, more importantly, to my child’s well-being.




David Haldane’s latest book, “A Tooth in My Popsicle,” is available on Amazon and Lazada. An award-winning journalist, author, and broadcaster, Haldane is a former Los Angeles Times staff writer with homes in Joshua Tree, California, and Northern Mindanao, Philippines, where this column appears weekly in Gold Star Daily.


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