Four of largest Kansas school districts ‘cut parents out of the picture’ on student gender issues, despite AG’s warning

(The Lion) — Four of the largest school districts in Kansas will continue to keep parents in the dark about their students’ “transgender” status despite a warning from the attorney general.

Attorney General Kris Kobach says he sent letters to six districts in the state, challenging their policies regarding parental notification for students who identify as transgender. The districts allow or even require school staff to hide a student’s use of “preferred pronouns” or alternate names, essentially allowing a student to socially transition without informing parents.

“A child changing his or her gender identity has major long-term medical and psychological ramifications,” Kobach said. “Parents should know, and have an opportunity to be involved in, such an important aspect of their well-being.”

In the letter, Kobach argues the policies are unethical and violate a parent’s “fundamental constitutional right to direct both the education and upbringing of their children,” and wonders if parents were involved in the process to adopt the policies.

“It would be arrogant beyond belief to hide something with such weighty consequences from the very people (parents) that both law and nature vest with providing for a child’s long-term well-being,” the letter reads. “That a Kansas school district could so cavalierly allow a minor child – whom science tells us does not even have a fully formed brain into his or her twenties – to decide whether his or her parents know about such things is shockingly irresponsible.”

Kobach’s office reports two of the six districts, Belle Plaine (USD 357) and Maize (USD 266), responded immediately, updating their policies to require parental notification in such cases.

Not so for the four other districts, including some of the largest in the state. Kansas City (USD 500), Olathe (USD 233), Shawnee Mission (USD 512) and Topeka (USD 501) all reportedly dug in their heels, defying the attorney general’s warning.

“Some schools denied that their policies cut parents out of the picture,” Kobach’s office said, “but the Attorney General’s letters quote the offending language directly from those schools’ policies.”

The AG’s office also reports the Olathe school district initially requested a meeting to discuss the policy. However, it says despite repeated efforts, no meeting has been scheduled.

Belle Plaine and Maize become the latest to join the growing ranks of districts in the state to codify parental notification requirements since parental rights emerged as a hot-button issue during the pandemic. As reported previously by The Lion, despite “shocking” opposition, the Lansing Board of Education voted in December to adopt a policy requiring schools in the district to offer transgender students “support measures consistent with their gender identity.”

Such support measures may include the use of preferred pronouns and the use of unisex or single-stall bathrooms. However, parental notification is also required, including parental consent if the student is under 18.

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