Parents have the right and responsibility to direct the upbringing and education of their children. And children need their parents to do just that, especially when they are struggling with challenging issues like their identity. Yet, sadly, many schools around the country are allowing and even encouraging children who are struggling with their identity to make life-altering decisions without informing their parents.
In some instances, school administrators have gone so far as to bar teachers and faculty from informing parents about their children’s behavior at school. And they have done so under the guise of “support” and “acceptance” for children struggling with questions about sex and gender. But their actions do neither. Instead, they drive a wedge between students and their parents when these children need their parents most.
Fired for telling the truth
When children express confusion or frustration with their biological sex at school, their parents should be the first people consulted. School administrators and parents should be working together to help students who are struggling.
Instead, many schools have instituted so-called “gender support plans” that teachers and faculty are forced to follow when students show signs of gender dysphoria. That was the case for Kathy McCord, a school counselor working for the South Madison Community School Corporation in Indiana.
South Madison instituted its “gender support plan” in 2021, and it required employees to refer to some students by pronouns inconsistent with the student’s sex. Worse, for some of these students, district policy required using those incorrect pronouns during the school day while continuing to use correct pronouns in communications with parents.
Kathy expressed concerns about the policy. She believed it required her to lie to parents about their children. And she worried about the effect on kids if their parents were kept in the dark. But school district officials told her she had to put her personal beliefs aside and comply with school-developed secret transition plans if she wanted to keep her job. Although she initially complied with the policy, she was later fired for confirming the details of the plan to a reporter who had already gathered the facts himself.
[Alliance Defending Freedom has filed a lawsuit on Kathy’s behalf. Read more about the case here.]
Unfortunately, this is far from an isolated incident. “Gender support plans” are popping up all around the country, and they are threatening teachers, faculty, parents, and children all at once.
What do ‘gender support plans’ say?
At most schools that implement “gender support plans,” the plan starts during a meeting with a school counselor, who walks through the plan, filling it out for a student. Often, school officials intentionally leave parents out of this process, despite the fact that parents know their children best. While these plans vary from school to school, they typically include the following elements:
- Student’s factual information: Most “gender support plans” begin with fields in which school officials may enter basic information about a student, such as legal name, sex, date of birth, grade level, and school attended. While these are all statements of fact, they often have corresponding sections relating to the student’s so-called “gender identity.”
- Student’s self-identity: Since the main point of these plans is for school officials to push a child into adopting an identity inconsistent with their sex, some of the factual information is accompanied by fields related to a “transition.” Most plans, for example, include lines for a student’s “preferred name” and “gender identity.” Even if this information is different from the student’s legal name and sex, teachers are expected to use it when referring to him or her.
- History of transition: Most plans include a brief outline of the student’s history regarding the transition to a new name or “gender identity.” Some also include a section describing whether the student is being seen by a medical professional.
- Knowledge and support of parents: Arguably the most objectionable portion of the typical plan is the instruction regarding parents. Most plans include areas to indicate whether a student’s parents are aware of the “transition” and whether they support it. But that’s not all.
- Confidentially, privacy, and disclosure: “Gender support plans” usually include a section in which school officials push children to list who should be made aware of their “transition.” They can specify other students, faculty, and administrators who should—or should not—be informed. In many cases, teachers are instructed not to discuss a student’s “transition” with parents unless the plan provides for disclosure to parents.
- Student Safety: Finally, many plans include various questions supposedly aimed at keeping a student “safe.” These can range from “What coping skills help the student if he is struggling?” to “What family dynamics should be considered?” But instead of having honest and important conversations with parents about these questions, school staff are expected to fill out the form with the student, often without parental knowledge.
‘Gender support plans’ present dangers to many people
Despite what schools claim when they roll out “gender support plans,” these plans do not make students safer. In fact, they present unique dangers to three specific categories of people.
First and foremost, these plans hurt the students themselves. Children experiencing discomfort with their sex deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. They need effective and compassionate mental health care. And they need their parents. No child should have to walk through something as difficult as struggling with their identity without the help of their parents. By excluding parents, denying biological reality to students, and depriving them of the help they need, school administrators are leading children down a dangerous path.
Second, “gender support plans” threaten good teachers and faculty by forcing them to lie to students and parents. Instead of encouraging students to work through confusion in a healthy manner, they are instructed to deny the truth about what it means to be male and female and then hide information from parents.
Finally, “gender support plans” harm parents by violating their basic right to direct the upbringing of their children. Parents have a responsibility to care for their children, especially when they are struggling, and school administrators have no right to exclude them from the lives of their children.
ADF seeks to defend the rights of students, educators, and parents. That is why we will continue to challenge dangerous “gender support plans” across the country.