Over 160 school districts nationwide, including three in Kansas, have policies to keep students’ transgender status a secret from their parents. That is according to a report from Parents Defending Education (PDE), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to “fighting indoctrination in the classroom, and for the restoration of a healthy, non-political education for our kids.”
The three Kansas school districts on the organization’s list are:
- Belle Plaine USD #357
- Kansas City, Kansas USD #500
- Topeka USD #501
Two Kansas districts included on a recent list, Gardner-Edgerton USD #231, and Wichita #259, successfully had themselves removed from a recent survey after we contacted their superintendents and board presidents for comment, asking the justification for keeping such important information secret from parents, and if their transgender status policy advanced student achievement.
Dr. Brian Huff, superintendent of Gardner-Edgerton, sent us the district’s policy, which validated its removal from the list:
“Parent notification is necessary for all students under 18 years of age seeking support measures consistent with their gender identity.”
Wichita Board President Sheril Logan responded with this comment:
“The Wichita Public Schools is committed to supporting EVERY student, within the law, based on Board policy, and with the desired support of engagement and awareness by every child’s parents – always. There is no effort to keep information from parents, as parents are entitled to all information in a student’s record. Any statement or conjecture from your or any other reporter’s perspective is false.”
Just last week, however, the Wichita district declined to comment on its Diversity Director telling teachers that it is discriminatory to inform parents when their children want to use different pronouns. So it is at least not clear if the district is following and holding staff accountable to its written policy.
Topeka’s spokesman Aarion Gray provided his district’s transgender policy:
‘All persons, including students, have a right to privacy. This includes the right to keep one’s transgender status or gender nonconforming presentation private at school. Information about a student’s transgender status, legal name, or gender assigned at birth also may constitute confidential medical information. School personnel should not disclose information that may reveal a student’s transgender status or gender nonconforming presentation to others, including parents and other school personnel, unless legally required to do so or unless the student has authorized such disclosure.”
“Transgender policies that support and protect transgender students can improve student achievement by reducing bullying and discrimination, improving mental health, and promoting inclusivity and participation in school activities.”
Gray offered nothing to substantiate his statement that hiding a student’s transgender status improves student achievement, however.
We did not receive responses to our questions from officials in the KCK or Belle Plaine Districts.
PDE’s Erika Sanzi is critical of districts adopting these policies:
“Schools that don’t allow students to take a Tylenol without parent permission do allow students to identify as a different gender at school without any parental notification. In practice, this means that a gender support plan can be drafted and shared with staff without the knowledge or consent of the parents. This plan often states that the student will use restrooms and locker rooms, and sleeping quarters on overnight field trips that align with their new gender identity. All of this is an egregious violation of parental rights. Schools should not be in the business of keeping secrets from parents about their own children.”