Harrisonburg City Public Schools (HCPS) in Virginia has instituted a new policy that affirms students’ transgender identity, requires staff to use their preferred name and pronouns, and also orders staff to hide this information from parents.
A key factor in the last Virginia governor’s race was the struggle between parents and school boards with issues regarding transgender-affirming policies being one of the main points of conflict. Now another school has announced that it will also use a student’s preferred name and pronoun without parental consent or knowledge.
In a presentation entitled Supporting our Transgender Students given to staff, HCPS instructed staff to always use a student’s preferred name and pronouns. Staff were told that a student’s gender transition is confidential and that all communication should be in collaboration with the student. If parents are not aware of their child’s gender transition, staff are told not to inform parents and to use the child’s given name and sex-appropriate pronoun in communication with parents. This echoes an October presentation given by the school regarding affirming transgender students.
ADF, representing teachers and parents of students at HCPS, sent a letter demanding that the school stop these policies, claiming that they violate the Constitution.
“Our clients believe that every child should be treated with dignity and respect, and that all students must be cared for by their school community,” the letter reads. “They are mindful that an increasing number of children find themselves struggling with feelings of discomfort with their sex, and some suffer from clinical gender dysphoria. And they understand that gender dysphoria can be a serious mental-health condition that requires professional help.
However, ADF added, “Our clients are alarmed that HCPS is seeking to impose an ideologically driven one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with these delicate and sensitive issues that is harmful to children, while surreptitiously pushing parents out of the conversation. Our clients are concerned that this approach not only goes against the best interests of children enrolled in HCPS, but also violates state and federal constitutional rights.”
ADF claims that the requirement that staff always use a student’s preferred name and pronoun violates their First Amendment rights by compelling speech.
In the case of Loudoun County teacher Tanner Cross, Cross refused to follow the school’s policy of requiring teachers to use a student’s preferred pronoun and was suspended, but a court ordered the school to reinstate Cross. That ruling has since been affirmed by the Virginia Supreme Court.
ADF also claimed the policy violates parents’ rights to direct the upbringing of their children.
The organization warned of the potential harm to students, noting that the vast majority of instances of minors expressing gender dysphoria or distress about their sex desist. The letter quotes Dr. Stephen Levine who called childhood transitions “an experimental procedure that has a high likelihood of changing the life path of the child, with highly unpredictable effects on mental and physical health, suicidality, and life expectancy.”
It also quotes expert Kenneth Zucker, who said, “Parents who support, implement, or encourage a gender social transition (and clinicians who recommend one) are implementing a psychosocial treatment that will increase the odds of long-term persistence.”
HCPS is inserting itself between parents and children, pretending to know what is best for them. As ADF asserts, “The HCPS policy and practices take this life-altering decision out of parents’ hands — and knowledge — and places it with educators, who have no expertise whatsoever in these matters, and with minors, who lack the ‘maturity, experience, and capacity for judgment required for making life’s difficult decisions.’”
This is wildly inappropriate and violates parents’ rights, as well as the rights of staff, while doing lasting harm to students who need to be taught to accept and value their own sex rather than be enabled and encouraged to further accept a delusion that robs them of peace and potentially their health.