A Kansas school district is telling teachers that misgendering students “could lead to death.”
A Freedom of Information Act request from Parents Defending Education (PDE) revealed that Wichita Public Schools (WPS) instructed teachers to encourage students’ gender transitions, even if it means hiding it from their parents.
A 17-page training presentation, attributed to Keith Reynolds, the director of equity and diversity training at WPS, detailed how schools are hostile environments for LGBT youth, who often suffer from depression or suicidal thoughts.
“If family doesn’t support them, LGBTQ+ students are 8 to 10 times more likely to die by suicide than other teens,” one slide reads.
“The lack of using pronouns could lead to death,” notes from another slide claim.
“To allow a parent’s wishes to not use the students’ preferred pronouns and/or names is to allow yourself to be deputized to discriminate. This is not acceptable,” reads another slide.
The presentation also claims WPS has over 100 transgender staff and more than 350 transgender students.
“Parental rights rule (because the student is a minor) unless the parents’ actions place the student in danger,” the slides conclude.
Similar policies have been used in other schools as grounds to accuse parents of abuse, and even remove children from their custody.
In Virginia, a transgender high school student named Sage was trafficked and sexually abused in state custody after her parents were accused of abuse for not supporting her gender transition, which she later admitted she was pressured to go through with. Sage eventually walked back her transition but was denied proper mental health treatment by the state before finally being allowed return to her parents.
Now, Sage is advocating for the Child Protection Act, also called Sage’s Law, that would require Virginia schools to involve parents in conversations about their child’s gender.
Though such stories may be rare, they demonstrate the clear and present threat to students whose schools decide they know better than parents, observers say.
“To undermine parents’ right[s] to direct the upbringing of their children is not only immoral but also illegal,” said Nicole Neily, president of PDE.
Alex Nester, a PDE investigative fellow, expounded on the harm such policies cause students.
“School officials have chosen to side with activists over the families they serve,” he said. “Policies that exclude parents from their child’s decision to live as the opposite sex at school divide families. They encourage kids to live a double life, which harms both them and their parents.”
Both Neily and Nester reference the language of a Supreme Court decision from 1923 declaring parents have the right to direct the education and upbringing of their own children.
“Mothers and fathers – not teachers and administrators – are the first and foremost caregivers of a child,” Nester added. “It’s vital that all school policies support and codify that simple fact.”