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Biden's Change to Title IX Shuts Parents Out of Kids' Mental, Emotional Health

Christiana Kiefer
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If parents are being kept in the dark, they are unable to address their child's needs in an appropriate and timely way.

Ed. Note: The following piece originally appeared at Townhall.

The Biden administration's push to redefine "sex" in the civil rights law known as Title IX to include "gender identity" is trying to pass itself off as a simple change, but in reality, it threatens one of the basic principles of American society: the idea that parents, not the state, are the primary caretakers for children. With the proposed change, the Biden administration is poised to compel school districts to treat students as the opposite sex—without their parents' knowledge or consent—and even to lie to parents about their children's psychological and emotional health.

The proposed change references two examples of school policies that would not have to change, and those examples give us a crystal-clear picture of what the Biden administration is encouraging. The policies acclaimed by the administration are from California's Department of Education and Nevada's Washoe County School District. Both of these institutions state that parents have no right to know if their child expresses gender dysphoria at school and indeed assert that deception of parents is entirely acceptable.

If these are the kinds of policies lauded by the Biden administration, parents must prepare to be completely shut out of their children's mental and emotional health struggles. These policies mandate that a school can treat a child as an alternative gender identity without informing parents. This includes changing a child's name and pronouns at school and encouraging a child to use opposite-sex bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers with no consideration for student safety or privacy. And on top of all this, schools can change a child's gender identity and then require school staff to keep this secret from the child's parents.

This is a disaster in the making. If a child expresses discomfort with their biological sex, that often indicates an underlying mental or emotional health problem. Those kinds of problems require a strong network of support and care from everyone in a child's life—most importantly from parents and family. If parents are being kept in the dark, they are unable to address their child's needs in an appropriate and timely way.

In addition, many medical professionals have expressed deep concerns about immediately affirming a different gender identity during childhood. Studies repeatedly have shown that the vast majority of children who experience discomfort with their sex, including gender dysphoria, grow out of it before reaching adulthood. But Dr. Kenneth Zucker, who led one of the world's top clinics for children with gender dysphoria for over 30 years, cautions that adults "who support, implement, or encourage a gender social transition" increase the odds of a child having a life-long struggle with their biological sexuality.

Keeping parents out of the loop about their children's struggles with gender identity not only violates parents' rights to raise their children consistent with their own beliefs, it also harms children by preventing them from getting the care they need.

It sounds like a nightmare: a child adopting a different gender identity at school than at home, and everyone knowing about it except the parents. But even without the Biden administration's new regulations taking effect (yet), that nightmare is coming true for families across America.

In 2021, two sets of parents, represented by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, filed a lawsuit against Wisconsin's Kettle Moraine School District over this very issue. In one family, the daughter had been pushed by a counseling program to assert that she wanted to be a boy. Her parents recognized that she was struggling deeply and they wanted to help her achieve long-term mental and emotional health before supporting any permanent changes, including adopting a new name or new pronouns.

The school overrode the parents' wishes and said that they would refer to the child by a male name and pronouns, without informing her parents or getting their consent. The parents, realizing that they would be powerless to protect their daughter, withdrew her from the school and filed a lawsuit to try to prevent the school from harming other families.

Just a few weeks after withdrawing from the school, the daughter thanked her parents for protecting her. She said that the counselor she worked with was rushing her into transitioning and was encouraging her to be angry at her parents for not immediately affirming her new gender identity. The daughter has since reverted to using her birth name and female pronouns.

If President Biden's proposed changes to Title IX go through, parents across the country can expect to be excluded from key conversations about how to guide their children through the struggles of adolescence and puberty. They can expect to be undermined, deceived, and ignored. They can expect their children to be turned against them by teachers, administrators, and counselors, who will point to federal guidance and say, "We have no choice!"

The truth is that parents have a vital, God-given, constitutionally protected right to raise their children according to their own deeply held beliefs, including making decisions when their children struggle with gender identity. Parents and state-level leaders should make their voices heard by speaking out against the Biden administration's proposed rule change during the open comment period. And state and local leaders must start preparing now to defend parental rights against encroachment by the federal government.

Christiana Kiefer
Senior Counsel
Christiana (Holcomb) Kiefer serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where she is a key member of the Center for Conscience Initiatives.