St. Louis Children’s Hospital told Missouri educators to keep student 'breast binding' secret from parents

Experts at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital advised a Missouri school district to withhold information about students using dangerous chest-compression devices from parents.

Mia Ashton Montreal QC

Experts at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital advised a Missouri school district to withhold information about students using dangerous chest-compression devices from parents.

A school counselor at Parkway Schools in St. Louis County contacted the Washington University Transgender Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital asking for guidance on how to trans-identified female students who are binding their breasts, reports Fox News.

In an email exchange obtained by Parents Defending Education (PDE) via a Freedom of Information request, the counselor explains that there had been a few instances of teenage girls passing out while wearing chest compression devices during gym or music class. The counselor wants to know if informing the parents is necessary given the health concerns, and the expert at the children’s hospital advises against it.

"I know our staff wouldn't necessarily want to tell the parents but were curious if they HAD to if it becomes a health issue?… The only reason we'd want a nurse, PE, or Music teacher to know is because we had a few instances where a student passed out when wearing one that was too tight (when participating in PE activities or singing and out of breath... Just wanted to put that into context...)" reads the student counselor’s email dated Jan 20, 2022.

A program manager at the Transgender Center provided the counselor with a response from Dr. Sarah Garwood, co-director of the center. 

“I’m attaching a response from Dr. Garwood,” said the program manager.

“I would actually decline any requirements for disclosure by students or from school to parents,” was Garwood’s response according to the email. “I would, however, provide general education to school nurses, teachers, school counselors so that they are aware this may be something they encounter.”

The email further quotes Garwood saying that in “some circumstances,” a “private conversation between PE teacher and student may be appropriate (Or between student and school counselor). The basic safety facts can also be shared with nurse, counselors, PE teachers (and music/band makes sense too).”

Chest compression devices known as “binders” are worn by gender-confused teenage girls to flatten their breasts to give a more masculine appearance. They have been shown to cause damage to the ribs, lungs, and spine. They also cause breathing difficulties and come with a risk of rashes and overheating. 

PDE also received information regarding a training video shown to Parkway Schools staff in August 2021. The YouTube video by the Transgender Center, which now appears to have been deleted, was titled “Working with Transgender Students,” and contained a segment on “privacy and disclosure.”

“There is a lot of ethical debate about this, because parents are the parents, they’re in charge. On the other hand, the kids are with all of you 6 to 8 hours a day. I believe that the best practice would be to respect that kid’s gender identity to the best that you can, without informing the parents, throughout the school day as much as you can. Working with the student, and being like, ‘OK, we can’t change your name on all the things because we have to tell your parents. So we can’t do that, but here’s where we can change your name,’” Fox News reports the program manager saying in the video.

The Post Millennial has reached out to Dr. Garwood for comment.


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