PA school district requires teachers keep students' gender identity secret from parents

A Pennsylvania school district requires that its staff withhold information from parents about a child’s gender identity, and supports compelled speech for elementary students who are struggling with the use of preferred pronouns.

Mia Ashton Montreal QC

A Pennsylvania school district has been revealed to require that its staff withhold information from parents about their child’s gender identity, and recommends that teachers speak privately with students who identify as transgender to find out how they would like to be addressed in communication with their parents.

The Lower Merion School District (LMSD) policy to ensure "equity and nondiscrimination" for transgender and gender diverse (TGD) students advises school personnel not to "disclose information about a TGD student’s gender identity and expression to others, including the student’s parents/guardians…unless legally required to do so."

The board explains that this is because students "have a right to privacy," and have the right "to openly discuss and express their gender identity and expression, and to decide when, with whom, and how much information to share."

Staff are instructed to refer to students by the name and pronouns that correspond to their gender identity but are cautioned that "there may be situations (e.g. communications with family…) where it may be necessary and recommended for staff to be informed of the student’s legal name and gender."

School personnel who are unsure how to refer to a student in communication with their parent or guardian are advised to "privately ask the student."

Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro’s new selection for Secretary of Education, Dr. Khalid N. Mumin, is the former superintendent of LMSD.

This advice is in direct contradiction to the advice of a growing number of experts who argue that social transition, i.e. a change of name and pronouns, is a powerful psychotherapeutic intervention that should only be undertaken under the guidance of a mental health professional.

Last year, Dr. Hilary Cass, former president of the Royal College of Paediatrics, published the interim findings of her independent review of England’s gender service. In the report, she said, "it is important to view [social transition] as an active intervention because it may have significant effects on the child or young person in terms of their psychological functioning."

Dr. Erica Anderson, a trans-identified male clinical psychologist with vast experience treating youth with gender issues, echoed this stance in a recent affidavit submitted in support of the Wisconsin parents suing their daughter’s school district for socially transitioning her without their consent or knowledge.

Anderson argued that parental involvement is "necessary to obtain professional assistance for a child or adolescent experiencing gender incongruence, to provide accurate diagnosis, and to treat any gender dysphoria or other coexisting conditions," adding that social transition "has the potential to increase the likelihood of persistence of gender incongruence."

"No professional medical association that I am aware of recommends social transition of children and adolescents without a careful assessment and treatment plan," said Anderson.


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