School District Officials Deny Secret Social Gender Transitions; Board Members Request Investigation

Brad Jones
By Brad Jones
April 4, 2023California

Two assistant school district superintendents at a California school district accused of secretly socially transitioning the gender identities of students without informed parental consent have denied the allegations, and three school board members have requested an investigation.

The controversy stems from a public records act request initiated by parental rights advocates that yielded hundreds of pages of emails and revealed that 23 students in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District—eight of them elementary school age—began social gender transitioning without informed parental consent from January 2020 to October 2022.

In all 23 cases, parents either weren’t informed about the initiation of their child’s gender support plan, known as a GSP, or were told and didn’t consent, a parental rights advocate, who goes by the pseudonym Kim Davis for fear of retaliation, told The Epoch Times.

District Responds

The school board that oversees pre-K through grade 12 schools in the Orange County cities of Newport Beach and Costa Mesa held a 45-minute discussion at its March 28 school board meeting following the demands from three school board members—Michelle Barto, Krista Weigand, and Lisa Pearson—that the issue be placed on the agenda.

The three trustees stated March 19 that they found the allegations “sickening and appalling.”

“It is not the role of schools to hide things from parents, particularly those matters which impact their students’ mental health, as the support needed goes beyond what a school can provide. We are committed to a full investigation of these claims and to making parents aware of what happens in the classroom. We will be pushing for a board policy to explicitly address making parental rights and transparency at the forefront of parent and teacher interactions,” the trustees wrote on Instagram.

In a memo to Wesley Smith, the district superintendent, they requested a review of the district’s practices related to gender support at the March 28 meeting and asked for an investigation into the allegations referenced in the March 17 Epoch Times article “California School District Emails Reveal Students Were Secretly Gender Transitioned.”

At the March 28 meeting, Sara Jocham, the assistant superintendent of student support services, and Kerrie Torres, the assistant superintendent of secondary education, denied the allegations, claiming that no students are transitioned without parental knowledge or involvement.

“I think it’s important to keep in mind that when we talk about gender support plans … they are not transition plans,” said Jocham. “That’s not what this is. We do not transition students to a different gender. We do not provide any medical support, any medical counseling—anything like that. This is strictly a plan for how to socially support the student to navigate their school day.”

Torres told the board that the district is looking into the emails obtained through the public records act request.

The emails show “conversation that does look scary,” and indicate “there might be staff overreach,” Torres said.

“So that’s one of the things that we’re taking a look at, just to ensure that there wasn’t anybody who may have overstepped their boundaries, and maybe recruited students instead of letting students come forward,” she said.

Annette Franco, a public relations officer for the district, echoed Jocham’s denial of the allegations in an email to The Epoch Times on March 30.

“We don’t have any ‘secret social gender transitions.’ We do not transition students,” Franco said.

However, she said, GSPs may include a student’s preferred pronouns and name.

“Our practice has been to have parental involvement at the elementary level, and we strongly encourage parent participation at the secondary level,” Franco said.

She said the “investigation into staff participation with gender support plans” is being conducted by a third party.

Social Transitioning

Meanwhile, parental rights advocates affiliated with a group called California Alliance For Education accused the district of using deceptive language by implying “social transitioning” is merely “social support,” and thus downplaying it as a form of gender transition.

“Social transitioning” is a widely used term that refers to changing a person’s name, preferred pronouns, and appearance, including clothing and hairstyles, to reflect a transgender identity, and it’s differentiated from physical forms of gender transition such as puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and surgery.

Haley Jenkins, a parent who pulled her children out of school in the district, told The Epoch Times the district is trying to redefine what “social transitioning” means to deflect criticism.

“With the word games they play, they choose to use the word ‘support’ … but they’re ‘supporting’ them by allowing them to socially transition at school,” she said.

Davis agrees.

“It’s weaponized language to hide the deceit and the subversiveness of what these mental health policies are doing to students, parents, and families,” she told The Epoch Times.

Gender-affirming policies not only allow students to use different names, pronouns, email addresses, and facilities such as bathrooms and locker rooms but also affirm an adolescent child’s belief in being a different gender.

“It’s a mental health intervention,” she said. “And it can set the child down a pathway that eventually leads to physical transition and irreversible damage.”

Legal Arguments

Mental and physical harm caused by transgender medical interventions is a source of deep regret among a growing number of detransitioners who transitioned socially, and then physically—including Chloe Cole, a California woman who is now suing her medical provider and doctors for removing her healthy breasts when she was 15 years old.

Dr. Erica E. Anderson, a clinical psychologist with more than 40 years of experience practicing in Berkeley, Calif., who is transgender, wrote an amicus (friend of the court) brief in the First Circuit Court of Appeals on March 20 for a case involving another school district “allowing minor children to secretly adopt a new gender identity at school,” according to the document.

Anderson argued that constitutional law protects parents as the primary decision-makers with respect to their minor children—“not their school, or even the children themselves”—and that a child’s disagreement with a parent’s decision “does not diminish the parents’ authority to decide what is best for the child.”

Anderson also served as a board member for the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) and as president of USPATH, the United States arm of WPATH.

In the brief, Anderson states that the American Psychological Association recommends a comprehensive evaluation and consultation with the parents and youth to discuss, among other things, “the advantages and disadvantages of social transition during childhood and adolescence,” and that The Endocrine Society recommends “a complete psychodiagnostic assessment.”

Even WPATH, which takes a “gender-affirming” approach, also recommends a full mental health assessment covering peer, family, and other social relationships and any unresolved issues in one’s environment, according to Anderson.

At the board meeting, Trustee Barto asked attorneys Anthony De Marco and Sara Young, partners with a law firm that provides legal services for the district, about student privacy laws.

Young said the California Constitution states “all people” have inalienable rights of privacy but doesn’t specify age, and that the state’s education code protects the privacy of students 12 and older in school counseling sessions.

Trustee Weigand asked the attorneys, “Who makes the Ed Codes?” De Marco responded, “The state legislature.”

Jenkins, the parental rights advocate, pointed out that a part of California Assembly Bill (AB) 1266 states parents or legal guardians shall be notified in a general manner at least once in the advance of career counseling and course selection so that they may participate in the counseling sessions and decisions.

“Not even once in AB 1266 does it say that schools are required to keep a student’s gender preference quiet from parents,” she said.

“California Alliance for Education has lawyers on hand right now to protect families’ rights and hold everyone here accountable,” she said. “The only way out of this is litigation challenging the constitutional protection of parental rights.”

Bill Dunlap, another parental rights advocate, criticized district officials for what he called a lack of transparency that led to the public records act request in the first place.

“Over the last two years, our group has been very involved in obtaining and reviewing, through public records requests, the curriculum being used by our children,” he said. “It seems that the truth and transparency is a bad dream for you guys. You just want to have it go away.”

From The Epoch Times

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