The Temecula Valley Unified School District board majority last week adopted a controversial parental notification policy, following the lead of Chino Valley and Murrieta Valley school districts and once again drawing the ire of California Attorney General Rob Bonta.

“The rise in school districts adopting policies that target California’s vulnerable LGBTQ+ student population is of grave concern,” Bonta said in a statement. “My office is closely monitoring the situation and will not tolerate districts compromising the safety and privacy of transgender and gender nonconforming students. We will remain committed to ensuring school policies do not violate students’ civil rights.”

Board member Allison Barclay made a motion to remove the item, which had not previously come in front of the board for discussion, from the board agenda at the start of the meeting. 

The motion, seconded by Board member Steve Schwartz, was overruled by the board majority, with Board President Joseph Komrosky, Board Clerk Jen Wiersma and Board member Danny Gonzalez.

Komrosky, Wiersma and Gonzalez were also the only votes in favor of adopting the policy despite a number of concerns raised by Barclay and Schwartz, district staff, parents, students and community members.

“If I didn’t transition and follow the rigid gender roles you want for men, I wouldn’t have the confidence to travel the world and stand tall next to these people,” Love Bailey, a transgender woman who lives in Temecula and has worked with celebrities such as Britney Spears, Lady Gaga and Naomi Campbell, said. “If I didn’t have a way to express myself, I probably would have succumbed to depression and un-alived myself, and that is exactly what’s happening to most kids who have abusive parents who kicked them out for their lifestyle choices. Is that what you want for these children?”

Bailey’s concerns were echoed by a number of speakers, including Marissa St. Onge’s daughter, a senior at Great Oak High School, who wrote a letter for her mother to read to the board.

“For a board that should care about the safety of the students, you fail to realize, or blatantly ignore, that the approval of this item will directly be putting students at risk,” St. Onge read. “Outing queer kids in non-queer-accepting households is dangerous and could be detrimental to someone’s life.”

According to The Trevor Project, nearly 30% of LGBTQ+ youth have reported experiencing housing instability or homelessness at some point in their lives. The group also reports that LGBTQ+ youth are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers, due in large part to the mistreatment and stigmatization they face in society.

Additionally, more than half of children who came out as transgender or nonbinary before the age of 13 reported they had been physically threatened or harmed due to their gender identity. Roughly 40% of those who came out as transgender or nonbinary after the age of 13 reported experiencing the same.

Those who spoke in favor of the policy said that parents have the right to raise their children as they see fit, which includes being informed if their children have identified as transgender or nonbinary at school. 

However, in a recent case involving Chico Unified School District, a judge ruled that parents do not have a constitutional right to be notified by a school district of their child’s gender identity.

“The issue before this Court is not whether it is a good idea for school districts to notify parents of a minor’s gender identity and receive consent before using alternative names and pronouns, but whether the United States Constitution mandates such parental authority,” United States District Judge John A. Mendez wrote in his ruling. “This Court holds that it does not.”

Komrosky and Wiersma, who together put the item on the agenda, initially proposed an amended version of the policy adopted by the Murrieta Valley and Chino Valley school districts, but the board ended up adopting the same exact policy.

Komrosky said that the adoption of the policy was a moral decision, reasoning that “preventing basic parental rights leads to hiding things from parents,” which he said was “morally wrong and blameworthy.”

The board ultimately adopted the policy, waiving the second reading, and instructing staff to do what it needed to do administratively in order for the policy to be put into effect with a 3-2 vote.

“The board policy tells us the what and the administrative regulation gives you the details in terms of how,” Interim Superintendent Kimberly Velez said. “Our hope is to start pulling together and working with particular counselors and other individuals probably within the next couple of weeks to be able to do that, to look at [administrative regulations] in these particular areas.”

The policy’s adoption came days after Laura Ann Carleton was fatally shot outside of her San Bernardino storefront by a man deputies said had made “several disparaging remarks about a rainbow flag that stood outside the store,” prior to shooting her.

On Monday, Bonta’s office announced that it had filed suit against Chino Valley Unified School District over the policy. Neither Temecula Valley nor Murrieta Valley are named in the lawsuit.

In other board action: The board majority approved a contract with Melendez Consulting “on an as needed basis for media relations, crisis communications, strategic communications and messaging, and internal communications.” The contract requires the board to pay a retainer fee of $2,500 per month for up to 10 hours of work with any time beyond that billed at $235 per hour. The company is owned by Nico Melendez, husband of former state Senator Melissa Melendez.

The board majority also approved a $3,400 expenditure to send Board President Joseph Komrosky to Chicago for the annual CUBE Conference put on by the National School Boards Association specifically to address the challenges that urban school districts face.

A video of the meeting can be found on TVUSD’s YouTube page in two parts. Part one can be found here. Part two can be found here.

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

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