Education bureaucrats are “socially affirming” children who are confused about their sex—often without their parents’ knowledge. Parents are furious, and rightfully so. But lawmakers have a simple solution that reconnects the act of “affirming” a child with the idea that parents are a child’s primary caregivers.
Bureaucrats who pull the levers deciding which part of the woke agenda that K-12 teachers should advance have applauded themselves for supporting so-called “gender” rights. Teachers unions, Teach for America (which recruits teachers for schools in low-income areas), and even the U.S. Department of Education are among those who have issued statements supporting the process of not questioning a child’s decision to “assume” a different gender, an ambiguous choice that usually signals the child is struggling with anxiety and depression.
It often starts like this: A student shows emotional distress—again, depression or long periods of sadness or anger. This could be the result of bullying, struggling with schoolwork, or having trouble making friends (or just being a child). All of this means that the child needs attention—help from family members and teachers, working together to guide them through the rough parts of growing up.
Yet the ambiguous “gender” craze has swept up K-12 students, girls in particular, and created nothing short of a contagion, analysts say. Children with low self-esteem may see material online that urges them to think their anxiety is caused by being born the wrong sex. Such material is altogether too easy to find on social media. Then, if they decide to assume a different gender—a distortion of the concept of biological sex—many educators and medical professionals will not question the child’s self-diagnosis.
In some states—New Jersey and California, to name just two—school officials operate under rules that can leave parents in the dark about the decision. These rules often keep parents out of life-altering conversations, potentially leaving troubled children with no one to help them deal with the underlying problems of mental illness or emotional trauma.
And that’s when things can go very, very wrong.
Educators are guiding more and more young people along the path to medical interventions, stalling puberty and altering their hormones. Many of those students grow to regret this. They are now speaking out, anguishing over the fact that no one warned them about the unalterable effects of these medications and, ultimately, the surgeries that remove or damage vital reproductive organs.
Young people are left with disfigured bodies and a lifetime of sorrow. And parents were cut out of the process from the beginning.
That’s why state policymakers are acting to reinsert parents and family members into the critical conversations teachers are having with students and to prevent educators from letting students diagnose themselves and ask for treatment. With the “Given Name Act,” no school official can address a child by a name different than the name listed on the child’s birth certificate or another official document without express permission from parents. Likewise, educators cannot call a child by a pronoun that does not match the sex listed on a birth certificate apart from a talk with parents.
This proposal would prevent teachers from helping a young child accelerate down the path leading to irreparable changes to their bodies without involving families. We do not treat children for any other medical or therapeutic issues without parent involvement and thorough testing, so confusion about their sex should not be treated differently.
Lawmakers in states such as Arizona and Indiana are considering these proposals now. A similar proposal has been introduced in Utah. Requiring a teacher to use the name parents wrote on their child’s birth certificate may sound simple, but this small act correctly slows down the progression that leads children to harm their bodies and make choices they may regret later. Research finds that nearly all cases in which a young person was confused about their sex as a child resolved naturally later, without hormone treatments and other disfiguring medical interventions.
Instead of rushing children to alter their bodies, school officials must work together with parents to treat the underlying causes of a student’s troubles and offer empathy and appropriate treatment. But parents or guardians and family members must be at the start, middle, and end of those conversations.
This piece originally appeared in the Washington Examiner