Parental Rights are about recognizing the parent or legal guardian as the premiere authority, teacher, and caretaker of a child. It is acknowledging that many aspects of a child’s upbringing involve decision-making and that parents, by virtue of holding legal guardianship, have a guiding role in this process.

Broadly speaking, this is precisely what we respect in our education system. Parents are included in so many aspects of the education process and receive regular communication from schools in the form of attendance reports, report cards, phone calls and messages from teachers whenever something as small as a scraped knee might have occurred. Recognizing that students spend far more time at home than at school, teacher’s I know often describe their role as educators as a partnership with parents, I think this is a wonderful way to frame the relationship.

And then came Gender Identity. Gender transitions have increased dramatically in our schools across North America and many schools have adopted procedures to support these children and ensure that our schools remain a safe and inclusive environment for students of all identity.

This is a good thing. I am pro-affirmation of any individual’s gender identity. And the foundation of many schools affirming practices is to use the names and pronouns that a student prefers. You will get no argument from me here.

I believe this is prudent position for any school to take, because it is not the purview of the school to evaluate whether transition is the appropriate medical and psychological intervention for a given student. This is well beyond the knowledge and experience of a teacher, and thus the determination as to whether transition is right for a certain child or whether there may be other mental health concerns at play is much better handled by the parents and the healthcare system. Just as a teacher won’t evaluate whether a student allergy is legitimate, teachers take what they’ve been told about a student and will simply act accordingly.

But this is where everything gets concerning because we are increasingly seeing schools adopt a policy by which students will be allowed to socially transition without notifying the parents, if the student does not want their parents to know. In practice, what this means is that the teacher will always refer to the student by a new name and announce to the entire class that this new name and pronouns should be always be used for the student. Every teacher in the school will know. And at the same time, the school will very intentionally NOT communicate this to parents. In fact, they usually have specific protocols in place to ensure everyone relevant knows this particular parent is not aware of their child’s preferred name and they’ll switch back to the legal name in all communications with the household so that the secret remains securely away from the knowledge of the parent.

Just saying that sounds so antithetical to everything our education system stands for. This is literally the only example I can find where a school takes a deliberate action to establish a context for a student and pairing this with another action to actively prevent parents from having any awareness.

Julia Malott

Julia Malott is a Canadian based transgender individual who advocates for bridging the gap between diverse viewpoints on gender identity and ideology. Julia is the host of Alotta Thoughts Podcast which features bi-weekly long form discussions exploring the complexity of sex and gender.

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Julia Malott

Julia Malott is a Canadian based transgender individual who advocates for bridging the gap between diverse viewpoints on gender identity and ideology. Julia is the host of Alotta Thoughts Podcast which features bi-weekly long form discussions exploring the complexity of sex and gender.