(Daily Caller News Foundation) – Educators at a Pennsylvania middle school acknowledged that the school was withholding information about a student’s “gender identity” and preferred name after the child was bullied and told to commit suicide, according to documents obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The Southern Lehigh School District (SLSD) instructed teachers and staff in October 2021 to use students’ preferred names or pronouns but told them to keep the information from parents if students request it, according to a DCNF investigation.
Tara Cooke, a counselor for SLSD’s Joseph P. Liberati Intermediate School, and Deanna Webb, formerly the school’s vice principal, discussed an incident in which several male students allegedly told a “female” student to kill herself. The administrators noted that they had yet to inform the child’s parents about the victim’s “gender identity,” according to a May 18, 2022 email in a public records request by several concerned parents, who asked to remain anonymous for safety reasons.
Webb told Cooke that “unidentified” male students had allegedly told the victim “Bye, I hope you die” and “You should just go kill yourself already,” according to the email. Webb noted that she had contacted “home” but asked Cooke to check in with the student.
“Also I am hoping that you can work with her to support her in sharing her gender identity/name with her parents or at least starting that conversation and getting access to resources /support as needed, if applicable there as well,” Webb wrote and Cooke responded the following day, saying that she “absolutely” would talk to the student.
The parents who received the documents told the DCNF that they were concerned that the child being bullied is “likely struggling and may need further support from his or her parents” but is unable to get it because of the school’s policy.
“Without full knowledge of what’s happening, the parents cannot help the child in the most effective way,” the parents explained. “At a minimum, this child has at least one psychological issue of which the parents are unaware, i.e., gender dysphoria. We understand that young children who suffer from gender dysphoria also likely have other comorbidities, like depression, trauma, etc. If the parents, and by extension, the child’s care team (family doctor, psychologist, therapist, etc.) don’t know all this occurring, how can they be most effective in helping this child?”
The district’s official policy requires educators to affirm the gender identity of students and use preferred pronouns and names. The district, however, explains that when a student discloses this information it is a matter of keeping “confidence” and “not something you should report to parents, and definitely something you should share with our guidance staff.”
“A good question to ask the student before you call is ‘What name, or how would you like me to refer to you when I call home,” an Oct. 7, 2021 email from the school’s principal reads.
The school also allows students to use the bathroom that best fits their gender identity, according to the email. The principal explained that forcing a transgender student to use separate facilities would potentially violate Title IX rules, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs that get federal funding.
The parents told the DCNF that the only reason a teacher or school administrator should keep a parent in the dark about their child was in situations of abuse, in which case they are mandatory reporters under state law. They noted, however, that nothing in the emails indicated that this was a concern of the school’s.
“The problem is that our schools seem to be starting from the premise that parents are a threat and a risk to their own children and that administrators and counselors know better,” the parents said. “Parents have a fundamental right under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution to direct the upbringing, care, and control of their children; our schools don’t get to disregard that in the name of ‘kindness’ or ‘inclusivity.’
SLSD, Webb and Cooke did not respond to the DCNF’s repeated requests for comment.