Parents Push Back Against School Transgender Policy

Parents Push Back Against School Transgender Policy
Packed audience at Frederick County Public School System meeting April 19, 2023. photo by Douglas Burton
Douglas Burton

Trans controversies are flooding women’s sports, beer commercials, and the floor of Congress, but a packed Maryland school board meeting on April 19 may have illustrated the fissure nationwide. Some observers waited 6 hours to get their chance to comment.

Both sides of the clash over “gender-affirming” rules in the Frederick County Public School System (FCPS) insist they are “saving lives.” The Frederick County Public School Board has heard frequently from citizens in protest of the County rule that allows students as young as 6 years old to self-identify as a person of the opposite sex without teachers notifying their mother or father. Nonetheless, most of the elected school board members stand by it. Not doing so, advocates of the rule have argued, may lead to bullying, depression, or even suicide. On the other side are parents and policy experts who say the journey of transgender transition leads to medical mutilation, depression, and for some, suicide as well.

Bullying: Transgender vs Minority Faith

Judging by applause among the 180 citizens in the packed auditorium, most of the crowd of soccer moms and grandparents want to know the day their child tells a teacher that he or she is no longer a he or she.

Kate Cureton, a thirty-something mother who took her small children out of the public schools, told the board religious people like herself are just as marginalized as trans kids.

“The justification for adding gender ideology into the health curriculum is typically that we want to help a marginalized group—transgender or non-binary students—to be included, have visibility in the curriculum, help others become tolerant, and to eliminate bullying,” Cureton said. She began by telling the board about her own experience of being bullied as a girl for her religious beliefs and suffering discrimination in the workplace.

“Wasn’t I part of a marginalized group being bullied?” Cureton asked. “Shouldn’t I have been protected by the school? Shouldn’t the school have created a curriculum to help me be more included and others to be more tolerant?

“I hear regularly that gender identity is fluid. It can change,” Cureton went on to say. “One day a person might feel more like a girl, and on another, like both a boy and a girl—nonbinary. There are no scientific or biological markers that would indicate one’s gender identity—the only way to know one’s gender identity is if one tells you. That sounds awfully similar to how one’s religious identity works,” Cureton said.

“There is one significant difference between choosing a gender identity and religion,” she added. “I can’t think of a single religious identity that leads children to take life-altering hormones and puberty blockers or undergo irreversible and mutilating surgeries.”

Dorothy Hughes spoke in favor of the new proposal to require school officials to notify parents of their child’s gender choices. “As Harvard-trained Dr. [Kathleen] Goonan testified here in February, gender dysphoria goes away for most children without intervention or, if necessary, with counseling to address underlying issues,” Hughes told the board. “Yet Frederick County Public Schools socially transitions kids quickly to a gender other than their biological sex and is willing to hide this from their parents. These children are being pushed down a path of irreversible harm by the use of ‘affirmation therapy, which is unscientific, ineffectual, controversial and was just invented 10 years ago,” Hughes said.

“Have you ever considered that gender dysphoria and anorexia are extremely similar? For children who suffer from anorexia, would you, without their parents’ approval, affirm their anorexia by saying, ‘Yes, you are fat—vomit some more, get diet pills, and don’t worry, I won’t tell your parents’?”

Frederick Board Member Cites Case Law

Board Vice President Dean Rose countered the criticism with a defense of policy 443, which allows students to request of staff that their gender identification be withheld from their parents. “Every piece of case law in Maryland supports in whole policy 443,” Dean said, before citing several federal court decisions in favor of transgender protections. “Federal expansion of Title IX provides protections for transgender persons,” he added. Rose argued that citizen energies were needed to cut down on other causes. “I hope everybody provides the same fevered advocacy in regard to gun violence,” Dean said, adding that the chief killer of youth in America was guns.
Board of Education Vice President Dean Rose, second from right, comments to the meeting. Photo by Doug Burton
Board of Education Vice President Dean Rose, second from right, comments to the meeting. Photo by Doug Burton

Only one of the seven-member County Board of Education spoke to confirm the criticism from parents. “Policy 443 needs to be updated,” said Nancy Allen, elected to the board in November 2022. It’s exclusionary in its interest to protect one group of students over another and remove the parent from their right to make decisions for their child.”

Heather Fletcher, a Frederick County parent who took her children out of the school system last year, spoke on behalf of a newly organized advocacy group called Our Voices for Freedom. “Today I come here to make a loving shot heard round the world, and this shot is truth. We will not live by lies,” Fletcher began.

“When you confuse young children and tell them they could be a boy when they are a girl, or a girl when they are a boy, when you put them on this path of affirmation, this is what happens,” Fletcher said pointing to a woman’s chest after top surgery. “If children are truly experiencing gender identity disorder, they need their parents’ help; they need mental help, not aggressive treatments like anti-depressants and anti-psychotic drugs all because they didn’t get the help they needed when they were a child.” She also protested the use of books in the public school system that illustrated sex acts between adolescent boys.

“They were talking about a book that isn’t in the school libraries,” FCPS Board president Sue Johnson told The Epoch Times after the meeting.  That book is one of 35 books that are under consideration,” she said. Regarding pushback from parents, Johnson said, “They expressed their opinions.”

Douglas Burton is a former U.S. State Department official who was stationed in Kirkuk, Iraq. He writes news and commentary from Washington, D.C.