Two people with their backs facing the camera standing close together with pride flags draped over their shoulders at a parade.
Experts and members of the LGBTQ+ community say parental notification policies that mandate schools to inform parents that their child is transgender or nonbinary harm youth. (Image from Canva)

Publisher’s note: TN News proudly stands with the LGBTQ+ community in Riverside County and beyond. For us, this is not a political statement, but rather our deeply held belief that all people — regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, ability or national origin — are entitled to equal rights, equal treatment and equal protection under the law.

Earlier this week, the San Bernardino Superior Court issued a temporary restraining order against Chino Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) Board of Education’s parental notification policy, immediately putting a stop to the policy’s enforcement.

“San Bernardino Superior Court’s decision to issue a temporary restraining order rightfully upholds the state rights of our LGBTQ+ student community and protects kids from harm by immediately halting the board’s forced outing policy,” Attorney General Bonta said in a statement announcing the order. “While this fight is far from over, today’s ruling takes a significant step towards ensuring the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of transgender and gender-nonconforming students.”

Jonathan P. Higgins, program liaison for Rainbow Pride Youth Alliance in San Bernardino, said the organization was in full support of the lawsuit to prevent policies like this from being enacted.

“I think the thing to keep in mind is that a lot of this is unconstitutional and there’s a lot of emotional and life-threatening harm to LGBTQ+ students specifically,” they said.

But CVUSD is not the only school district in the Inland Empire that has recently adopted the policy, with Murrieta Valley Unified School District and Temecula Valley Unified School District both approving the same exact policy last month.

The policy is largely based on Assembly Bill 1314, authored by Assemblymember Bill Essayli (R-Riverside), which seeks to amend the state’s education code to require a school district to notify a parent or guardian if a student is identifying at school as a gender other than their biological sex or seeking to be part of an athletic team or use a bathroom or changing facilities that do not align with their biological sex.

Love Bailey, a transgender woman who lives in Temecula, attended the TVUSD meeting where the policy was passed. In an interview with The Record, said the policy created a “witch hunt” with a real potential to harm transgender and nonbinary youth who might not yet be out in all facets of their lives.

“[This is] a very dangerous [policy] and [makes for] a very dangerous school for kids who are coming out,” she said. “It’s really the child’s decision what they want to do with that information, and maybe they’re still exploring, maybe they want to explore, but it causes a witch hunt for these kids.”

According to The Trevor Project, middle and high school LGBTQ+ students with access to at least one school-related protective factor were 26% less likely to attempt suicide in the prior year. School-related protective factors include access to gender neutral bathrooms, history classes that include discussions of LGBTQ+ people, access to a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) or similar club on campus and teachers who respect students’ pronouns.

Brandon Robinson, chair and associate professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of California Riverside, said schools can be very contradictory places for LGBTQ+ youth.

“Schools can often be a place of experiencing deep gender policing and bullying and violence for trans and nonbinary youth, and I think this policy further upholds schools as institutions that further gender policing of all youth, but specifically trans and nonbinary youth,” they said. “But schools can also be a place of safety and support for LGBTQ+ and specifically trans and nonbinary youth, since they can find other LGBTQ+ or other trans and nonbinary friends at schools.”

And, Robinson said, policies like the mandatory parental notification policy have the potential to rip away the safety and support students might otherwise find at school due to the threat of potentially being outed to unsupportive parents or guardians.

“Some of the youth in my current study specifically talked about how at school they go by their name and their pronouns, and at home they go by their deadname and whatever pronouns their parents assigned them at birth or refer to them as,” they said. “So schools for many youths became a place for them to actually come out and be themselves and go by the name that they want to own and that’s theirs and go by the pronouns that reflect who they are, and this obviously can completely destroy any kind of sense of safety around that as well.”

According to The Trevor Project’s 2023 National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ Young People, fewer than 40% of LGBTQ+ youth said their home was an LGBTQ+-affirming space.

“The thing about these policies is that it requires and forces information to be shared with parents, when young people might not be ready to share that information, and young people usually have a good sense of if their parents are going to be supportive or not,” Lex Ortega, director of education and advocacy at The LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert in Palm Springs, said. “They take in a lot of information around how their parents talk, maybe past experiences with siblings or other family members, and so sometimes they might not be ready to share that, but that doesn’t mean that it will always be that case.”

Higgins, who grew up in the Inland Empire, said they could not imagine how they would have felt if a policy like this was enacted when they were younger and figuring out their own identity.

“I know that for myself growing up as a youth in the Inland Empire when I was trying to figure out myself, it probably would have been very, very hard for me to have to deal with my parents and teachers and all of the other things,” they said. “So I can only imagine how this is going to impact students emotionally.”

Bailey said she knows from firsthand experience, and the experience of her friends who have been kicked out of their homes, the importance of allowing LGBTQ+ people the space to explore their identity and come out when they choose, how they choose and to whom they choose when they’re ready.

“Something like your gender and your sexuality is so personal, and sometimes you just don’t want to confide in your parents because of whatever reason,” she said. “They may be violent, they may have a religious upbringing, and they might even throw them out on the street and cause them to become homeless.”

And while additional school districts throughout the state have since adopted the parental notification policy, other school boards like the Riverside County Board of Education (RCBOE) and the Corona-Norco Unified School District (CNUSD) are taking a different approach.

In April, RCBOE had a proposed Parental Bill of Rights resolution on its agenda. In the proposal was language that would require parents to be notified of their child’s use of “gender pronouns.” That resolution failed after a 6-1 vote opposing the measure.

“They voted against it, because they recognize the harm that it could potentially cause to a very specific group,” Ortega said.

And just last month, the CNUSD board voted unanimously to approve a resolution recognizing the plight of LGBTQ+ staff and students.

“CNUSD has this organizational resilience that despite what is going on around us in Temecula, in Chino Hills, [Los Angeles], we still stick to what we think is good for kids,” Board Clerk Jose Lalas said at the meeting. “We stick to equity, we stick to our resolution tonight on recognizing the plight of LGBTQ. We’re not scared, we’re courageous, because we know we’re doing the right thing.”

Ortega also said that they have seen more families coming into The LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert together, with parents looking for ways that they can better support their children.

“I get chills thinking about it, because it’s so beautiful to just see an entire family unit walk in our doors and say, ‘We need help. We might not have the language, we might not have all of the knowledge, but the one thing we know we have is complete unconditional support and love,” they said. “So to see that happen in increasing numbers is beautiful, and what we hope all people have.”

Bailey said that being an ally to the LGBTQ+ community is an active choice that people have to make every single day.

“Being an ally isn’t just a woke trophy that you hold on a shelf and all of the sudden you know one trans person or you made that one rainbow flag post on your grid and suddenly you’re a woke ally — it doesn’t work like that,” she said. “It’s a daily choice and you have to constantly be educating your friends, you have to constantly be welcoming trans people into your circle and creating safe spaces for them, advocating for their rights — and not just when it’s popular to do so, but when all the odds are against you.”

The Trevor Project has put together a guide for how to be an ally to transgender and nonbinary youth that includes the first step of taking the initiative to learn more about transgender and nonbinary people and how to best support them.

“You’ll never be able to experience what I’m experiencing,” Bailey said. “That’s the beauty of being trans or having an individual self-gender expression is that everyone has a different journey.”

As for today’s LGBTQ+ youth, everyone who spoke with The Record for this story said they wanted to make sure that they know there are people who support and love them.

“I hope that young people know that they deserve safety, they deserve complete acceptance, they deserve a life that is full of love and they deserve to know that they belong,” Ortega said. “And if that doesn’t happen in their families, then I hope that they know that they can access that in school spaces and community spaces with other folks who might share their identities.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, help is available. Call or text 988 to be connected with a trained crisis worker at the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. 

The Trevor Project also operates a 24/7 crisis hotline that can be reached via phone at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Get-Help, or by texting START to 678-678.

TN News is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news outlet providing Riverside County with high-quality journalism free of charge. We’re able to do this because of the generous donations of supporters like you!

Alicia Ramirez is the publisher of TN News and the founder and CEO of its parent company TN News.

One reply on “Experts Say Mandatory Parental Notification Policies Are Harmful To Trans, Nonbinary Youth”

Comments are closed.