Amid growing controversy about parental notification policies for transgender students who want to use different pronouns, state Attorney General Rob Bonta has a message for school board members.
“Relook at the oath that you took,” Bonta said Tuesday, pointing to the fact that trustees swear to uphold the laws of the state and country.
“This contemplated act that you may be considering, based on the policy that we’ve already seen in Chino Valley, if it’s like that policy, it violates the law. It violates the Constitution. It violates a state statute. And it will be you will be violating your oath.”
Several school districts passed a policy that would notify parents if a student wanted to use a different pronoun or facilities different than their birth gender. Bonta sued Chino Valley Unified School District. A judge last week slapped a temporary restraining order on the district to prevent the policy’s implementation, until an October court hearing.
At the Sept. 6 Clovis Unified school board meeting, several members of the public spoke on the issue of parental rights and the district’s transgender student policy. Some requested a written notification policy.
There is no indication that the Clovis Unified board will take up the issue.
How Notifying Parents About Sexual Identification Differs From Other School Messages
Bonta explained that parental notification about transgender students would violate state law on privacy and discrimination while letting parents know about poor grades or behavior is OK.
“It’s different because it targets only one group of people because of who they are, and they’re a protected class based on their gender identity. The other policies are for everybody. This policy is only to attack and discriminate against and single out one group of vulnerable students, those who are transgender and gender non-conforming. So that is the difference that everybody must see here. And it’s what makes it unlawful. It’s what makes it unconstitutional. And so it makes it violate the civil rights of children,” Bonta said.
Tracy Henderson, founder of California Parents United, a conservative parents advocacy group, on Thursday called Bonta’s comments legal horse manure. The U.S. Constitution and case law have for years supported parental rights, said Henderson, who was in Clovis on Wednesday to speak at the Liberty Lunch.
Henderson says she advises parents to challenge public officials on the authority they are citing and not let them hide behind talking points.
“I briefly read Bonta’s lawsuit, it’s filled with false facts,” she said. “It’s relying on talking points in the narrative that if you don’t affirm gender, your kid’s going to kill themselves, which is ridiculous. Kids who actually go all the way through to the medical mutilation part of it end up killing themselves. If you get to them with a therapist while they’re confused, they’re fine, if that makes any sense.
“The basic response is that parental rights have been revered and respected as fundamental rights in our judicial system for years. So he’s wrong.”
Anti-Hate Roundtable at Fresno Center
Bonta was in Fresno on Tuesday for a roundtable to discuss hate crimes and how to prevent them.
April Taylor-Salery, a board member of LGBT advocacy group Trans-E-Motion, was a panelist, and spoke about school safety, particularly in Clovis.
“We’re having our faith buildings for LGBT people being targeted now they’re being targeted at school and with movements to take our history and our literature out of libraries and pairing that with an increase in crime towards the LGBT community, but also within the faith community,” Taylor-Salery said.
She referred to a recent discussion at the Clovis City Council regarding LGBT-themed books at the library and vandalism in April at LGBT-friendly Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church of Fresno.
Several ethnic groups were represented, either on the panel or in the roundtable audience at the Fresno Center.
A common theme was the need for immigrant communities to report hate crimes and incidents.
Immigrants Fear Retaliation for Reporting Hate Crimes
David Rasavong, a Fresno restaurateur, talked about having to close down his Tasty Thai eatery because of a negative racial stereotype perpetuated online. Social media messages implied his restaurant served dog meat even though it was completely untrue. Rasavong shut down his restaurant out of safety for his family and employees.
Rasavong asked Bonta and Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer to make things easier for non-English speakers, such as his parents, to report hate crimes and other issues of concern without fear of retaliation.
“They don’t want to voice anything because they’re concerned about, well, am I going to get in trouble? Is there going to be retaliation? Am I going to get the support? It’s almost (as if they are) more afraid to say something,” Rasavong said.
“My only request would be to find resources or ways for (them to report these things).”
Rasavong said he is planning to open a new Thai-oriented restaurant soon.