California Democrats this week blocked a hearing for a bill that would require schools to inform parents if their children begin using different pronouns, claiming debate over the bill would "provide a forum for increasingly hateful rhetoric."
Assembly Education Committee chair Al Muratsuchi (D.) on Monday confirmed that the committee will not take up Assembly Bill 1314, which would have required teachers and administrators to inform parents within three days if their children asked to be treated as a member of the opposite sex.
"I will not be setting AB 1314 for a hearing, not only because the bill is proposing bad policy, but also because a hearing would potentially provide a forum for increasingly hateful rhetoric targeting LGBTQ youth," the assemblyman said. Without debate, the bill cannot get a vote unless a legislative majority asks for one—a highly improbable event in the Democratic supermajority.
In a joint statement with the state legislature's LGBTQ Caucus, Muratsuchi said he was blocking the bill to ensure "gender identity conversations between parents and their children" occur "in a safe and private space."
Muratsuchi’s claim comes as state Democrats work to allow children to get sex change procedures without any parental consent. Last year, the legislature passed a law to make California a "haven" for youth around the country who want medical sex changes. This session, Democrats are pushing a bill that would let schools check minors into group homes without parental knowledge if the students claim their parents don’t support their identify. Other states, including Oregon and Colorado, have instituted similar policies.
AB 1314 would have countered guidance from the California Department of Education, which pushed teachers to keep children's "gender identities" secret after following the passage of a 2013 law that allows students to play on sports teams and use restrooms based on their preferred "gender identity."
"A transgender or gender nonconforming student may not express their gender identity openly in all contexts, including at home," the guidance states. "Revealing a student’s gender identity or expression to others may compromise the student’s safety. Thus, preserving a student’s privacy is of the utmost importance."
Erin Friday, the co-lead of parent coalition Our Duty, last week wrote to the committee to urge support for AB 1314, citing the lack of evidence that parents will reject their trans-identifying children and noting that schools do not keep them in the dark about "poor grades, absenteeism, or behavioral issues" because they "know parents are best-equipped to manage and support their children."
"[Parents] cannot possibly provide necessary support when they are purposely left in the dark concerning their children’s struggles," she wrote.
The bill’s sponsor, Republican assemblyman Bill Essayli, called on parents to fight to defend their fundamental right to direct the care, upbringing, and education of their children.
"While democrats have the votes to kill my bill in Sacramento, they do not have the votes to suppress parents’ voices at the local level," Essayli said. "I encourage parents to continue bringing lawsuits against their school districts challenging existing policies that allow children to be socially transitioned at school without parental consent."
Californians are already grappling with this issue at the local level.
The Chico Unified School District in Northern California last week voted to preserve its policy to keep sex changes secret from parents. The district faces a lawsuit from a mother whose fifth grader was "socially transitioned" to a boy by a guidance counselor, the second complaint of its kind in the state.
The following day, the Chino Unified School District Board in Southern California voted 4-1 to endorse Essayli’s measure after two hours of emotional debate.
"God forbid something happened to a child and the possibility of a parent being involved was not an option because we think school districts and states know better than a parent," school board president Sonja Shaw said ahead of the vote. Her remarks drew a mix of loud applause and chants of "Recall Shaw."