New bill would defund schools that hide students' chosen gender identity from their parents

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A new bill in U.S. Congress seeks to prevent government-funded public schools from allowing students to change their gender identity or pronouns without their parents' knowledge or consent. 

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., introduced the Parental Rights Over the Education and Care of Their (PROTECT) Kids Act last Tuesday. But with Democratic control over the U.S. House of Representatives and slight control over the U.S. Senate, the bill is not likely to pass. 

The legislation is a response to the trend of school districts nationwide instituting policies requiring officials to keep a trans-identified student's gender identity a secret from their parents if the child requests them to do so.

The legislation would require government-funded elementary or middle schools to inform parents before changing a student's name or pronoun on school records. In addition, the legislation would also require schools to tell parents before changing a child's "sex-based accommodations." 

The bill would withhold federal funding from schools that do not disclose such information to their parents. 

"Parents have a fundamental, constitutionally guaranteed right to raise and educate their children in the way they choose," the bill reads. 

The bill cites the 14th Amendment, which says that "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." 

"Public schools across the country are violating these fundamental parental and familial rights by deliberately hiding information about gender transitioning children from their parents," the legislation reads. 

The bill highlights school districts in Iowa, Maryland and Virginia as examples of schools that promote gender identity ideology behind parents' backs. 

"Schools exist to educate children — not indoctrinate them. And a quality education requires input from those who know children best: their parents," Scott said in a statement.

"Sadly, radical and secretive gender policies have shut parents out of the conversation and broken their trust. My bill will safeguard parental rights, improve the crucial relationship between parents and schools, and ensure that children can learn in an environment free from activist ideology." 

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., questions U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell as he testifies at a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on the Fed's "Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress," on Capitol Hill on March 3, 2022, in Washington, D.C. | Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images

Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland reportedly instructs teachers on how to form "gender transition plans" for students without their parents knowing. Last month, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by parents against the school district's "Guidelines for Student Gender Identity."

Under the guidelines, staff members are to "speak with the student to ascertain the level of support the student either receives or anticipates receiving from home" before contacting the student's parents. If trans students are not receiving support at home, the guidelines suggest that "staff will support the development of a student-led plan that works toward inclusion of the family, if possible, taking safety concerns into consideration, as well as student privacy."

In August, Parents Defending Education, a parental advocacy group, filed a lawsuit against an Iowa school district after it adopted a gender-neutral bathroom policy. 

As northern Virginia has been at the center of the national debate surrounding parental rights, Fairfax County, Virginia, adopted a policy that renders parental permission unnecessary for students wanting to be addressed by a different name or pronoun.

"Regardless of their intentions, these schools are sabotaging the parent-child relationship and encouraging children to keep secrets from the adults who are charged with protecting and defending them — their parents," Scott's bill reads. 

"School districts, activist organizations, and teachers unions must never be allowed to intrude on parental rights by concealing critical information from parents about their children."

Under Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, the Virginia Department of Education released a directive this month telling all 133 public school districts to stop allowing students to identify as the opposite sex without legal documents and to keep parents informed about their child's "psychological development."  

In addition, the directive instructs school districts to no longer allow students to enter bathrooms or other private spaces that do not align with their biological sex. School staff is not required to address a student "in any manner" that contradicts their religious beliefs under the new directive. 

The guidelines reverse the directive enacted under the previous governor, Democrat Ralph Northam, which called for allowing trans-identifying students to use opposite-sex pronouns without documentation.

School districts in progressive northern Virginia are considering a legal challenge to the directive. 

As The Hill reported, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Roger Marshall, R-Kan., are co-sponsors of Scott's bill. The legislation is backed by Parent's Defending Education Action and Independent Women's Voice, which advocates for athletes to compete on school sports teams that align with their biological sex.

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