ORANGE, Calif. (KABC) -- The Orange Unified School District became the latest in Southern California to adopt a policy requiring school staff to notify parents if their child starts to identify as transgender or gender non-conforming.
The board voted to approve the policy after angry protests and heated exchanges during a meeting Thursday night. The vote didn't take place until shortly before midnight, and it happened after three board members who were against the policy walked out.
The night started off with rallies from both sides before the meeting and disruptions during.
Those against the policy were advocates from the LGBTQ+ community, who said they're concerned about the students who might not have a safe home where they can express their chosen identities.
Those in favor of the policy argued it's about keeping parents aware of what's happening with their children to keep them safe, but ultimately to maintain parental rights over their young children.
"Whoever it is that wants to take our parents' rights, no. We are standing here. We're together, we're not going to stand for this," said one woman during the public comment section of the meeting.
"To witness where some of the board members stand on this issue is a sad realization that you do not have our student's well-being in mind," another woman said.
The policy as currently written would require that if a student under the age of 12 wants to identify as a gender different than the one specified on their birth certificate, that student would promptly be sent to a school counselor or psychologist, who would then report that information to the principal.
The school principal would then have five days to notify the parents unless school staff has reason to believe doing so would present a clear and present danger to the student.
It's a policy similar to those enacted by three school districts in the Inland Empire, but policies that have drawn legal challenges.
A San Bernardino County superior court judge this week issued a temporary restraining order against the Chino Valley Unified School District, blocking it from implementing its parent notification policy until the matter can be adjudicated in court, saying at least temporarily, the potential threat to children outweighs the parent's right to know.
"There may be many loving and caring parents that don't care one way or the other, as long as their students are healthy and happy and doing well in school," said Judge Thomas Garza. "But that aside, that's not going to be the reality."
"There will be parents that don't take kindly to those disclosures. And so out of an abundance of caution at this point, I am going to grant the temporary restraining order that the people have requested."
Orange Unified Education Association President Greg Goodlander worries about the cost the school district could incur if forced to fight the matter in court.
"We don't see any evidence that this policy will increase student learning or student achievement," said Goodlander. "We need air conditioning that works. We need to improve student learning and resources, and this is a distraction."