By Chris Powell
Schools purport to encourage the involvement of parents. But lately a big exception is being made around the country and in Connecticut.
That is, schools increasingly want to conceal from parents the gender dysphoria of students who don’t want their parents to know about it, and last week with a friend-of-the-court brief Connecticut Attorney General William Tong jumped into a Massachusetts case on the side of keeping parents ignorant.
Gender dysphoria is a profound and life-altering disorder, more serious than the injuries and accidents that students routinely suffer in school and that schools routinely report to parents. Parents unaware of their child’s gender dysphoria could be considered extremely negligent and of course are unable to participate in their child’s treatment, even though putting children through sex-change therapy — euphemized as “gender-affirming care” — carries enormous risks and is often regretted by those who undergo it.
What is the rationale for keeping parents ignorant of such a profound problem that their child manifests in school?
Attorney General Tong says the rationale is that the parents of students with gender dysphoria may not be “supportive or understanding and may actually take action to prejudice their rights or even do them harm.”
That is, in the attorney general’s view parents should not question their child’s desire to change genders and should not insist that alternatives be pursued, and that children have a right to sex-change therapy with the assistance of their school despite the opposition of their parents.
The attorney general’s concern that parents might harm their child with gender dysphoria is a mere hypothetical that could be used to justify preventing parents from acting as parents in any respect.
So the attorney general and many educators are advocating a spectacular exemption to the ordinary responsibilities of parenting, an exemption contradicting all legal precedent and experience.
Like other states, Connecticut holds that minors lack the judgment necessary, for example, to purchase liquor, tobacco products, and guns, to make binding contracts, and to get tattoos. So it makes no sense to contend that children on their own volition should be able to get puberty-inhibiting drugs and undergo irreversible surgery.
The attorney general and his colleagues from the 15 other states in the amicus brief in the Massachusetts case argue that requiring schools to inform parents about their child’s gender dysphoria would undermine the child’s trust in school staff. But what about the trust between parents and their children and their children’s schools? Such trust is of a far higher order.
Connecticut has no law on whether schools should inform parents of their child’s gender dysphoria, any more than the state has a law requiring schools to inform parents that their child has broken a bone in gym class.
Traditionally schools have considered themselves “in loco parentis,” a Latin phrase indicating a school’s responsibility to act as parents when a child’s parents are not immediately available. Are schools now to usurp parental responsibility in a serious medical matter even when the parents are available?
While acknowledging that state law doesn’t address whether schools should deceive or mislead parents about their child’s gender dysphoria, the state Education Department seems to encourage it by cautioning that a school’s not cooperating with a student’s gender switching might raise “serious civil rights concerns.”
The Education Department sees no serious concerns about the civil rights of parents in such situations, gender dysphoria having become politically correct and parental responsibility having fallen out of favor as children increasingly are born outside marriage and grow up without fathers.
With no law settling the issue, some school systems in Connecticut have adopted formal policies to keep parents ignorant of the gender dysphoria of students who don’t want their parents to know.
State legislators surely would prefer to avoid the issue. But if schools are going to deceive and mislead parents about such a serious matter of children’s health, and if government really is to impair parenting so much, it should be set out clearly in law with legislators taking responsibility and everyone knowing what has been done.
Chris Powell has written about Connecticut government and politics for many years.