Maryland Schools Guidelines: Hide Child’s Gender Transition From Parents

Maryland Schools Guidelines: Hide Child’s Gender Transition From Parents
A file photo showing male and female gender icons. (Shutterstock)
Bill Pan

The largest public school district in Maryland is instructing teachers and staff not to inform parents about their child’s gender transition at school without the child’s consent.

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), which serves more than 160,000 students in 209 schools, has provided employees with guidelines (pdf) on “proactively working with transgender and gender non-conforming students.”

According to the school district’s latest “Guidelines for Student Gender Identity,” a school principal or staff member should help develop a “gender support plan” for students identifying as transgender. The plan involves addressing changes related to names, pronouns, and bathroom and locker room access, as well as how—and to whom—such information may be disclosed.

When it comes to communicating with families, school principals and staff are instructed to first speak to the student and “ascertain the level of support the student either receives or anticipates receiving from home.”

“The fact that students choose to disclose their status to staff members or other students does not authorize school staff members to disclose a student’s status to others, including parents/guardians and other school staff members, unless legally required to do so or unless students have authorized such disclosure,” the guidelines read.

The guidelines also acknowledge that some students may feel “uncomfortable” sharing sex-separated bathrooms, locker rooms, or sleeping areas during an overnight field trip with their transgender peers. In that case, schools are told to “foster [an] understanding of gender identity” with those students.

“Some students may feel uncomfortable with a transgender student using the same sex-specific facility. This discomfort is not a reason to deny access to the transgender student,” the guidelines read.

The guidelines were issued in May 2021, but recently gained attention after a parent shared the documents with Parents Defending Education, an organization known for exposing radical leftist indoctrination in public schools.

The Lawsuit

In 2021, a group of parents sued MCPS over its gender identity guidelines, alleging a violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Passed by Congress in 1974, FERPA prohibits the public disclosure of students’ personally identifiable information and gives parents the authority to access their children’s education records. Montgomery County parents argue that under the federal law, they’re entitled to know their child’s gender and name preferences, even if the child doesn’t want them to.

“The central issue in the case is parental rights to their children and knowing what’s going on in the school with their children, and by this policy, that is being denied,” Rick Claybrook, an attorney representing the parents in the lawsuit, told Education Week. “Kids have their parents to protect them because they’re not able to do so until they reach maturity, and I think [they] often will misunderstand whether the parents are supportive or not.”

State Policies

The gender identity policy of MCPS appears to be in line with that of Maryland’s Education Department. As early as 2015, the department has been recommending that schools allow transgender students to “discuss and express their gender identity openly and to decide when, with whom, and how much private information may be shared.”
“Note that while a balance between students’ rights to privacy and parents’ rights to information in the educational environment is vital, no provision of state or federal law requires schools to affirmatively disclose this sensitive information to parents,” the department stated (pdf).

In recent years, school districts across the country have instructed educators to bypass parental consent and notification when it involves a student’s gender transition.

For example, New Jersey’s official “Transgender Student Guidance” tells school districts to avoid “work with transgender students” to avoid “inadvertently [disclosing] the transgender student’s status” to their own parents. Similarly, the District of Columbia Public Schools’ guidelines note that “students may choose to have their parents participate in the transition process, but parental participation is not required.”

In Massachusetts, schools are instructed by the state to “speak with the student first before discussing a student’s gender nonconformity or transgender status with the student’s parent” and to discuss with the student whether to reflect pronoun or name changes in written communications with the parent.

Chicago Public Schools’ guidelines read, “When speaking with other staff members, parents, guardians, or third parties, school staff should not disclose a student’s preferred name, pronoun, or other confidential information pertaining to the student’s transgender or gender nonconforming status without the student’s permission.”

Bill Pan is an Epoch Times reporter covering education issues and New York news.
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