‘We should never notify parents on these issues,’ school board member says of student gender status, citing suicide risk

A Rhode Island school district’s newest board member, an appointee, says parents shouldn’t be notified about most issues, especially children’s status in transgender cases.

“Not all parents…

A Rhode Island school district’s newest board member, an appointee, says parents shouldn’t be notified about most issues, especially children’s status in transgender cases.

“Not all parents should be notified simply because society assumes that every child has a well-meaning family culture that is accepting of this,” said Debra Lukascko at the North Kingston School Committee (NKSC) meeting. “Sometimes the worst thing you can do is involve parents in some of these issues based on their own beliefs and their own culture. And that will cause that student to commit suicide.”

The comments were made in relation to proposed changes to the district’s privacy policy that some say must comply with the Biden Administration’s most recent re-writing on Title IX and The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA).

The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) under Biden has implied that school boards could violate federal privacy laws under Title IX and FERPA if they inform parents of any gender status change by their children.

Those warnings are now migrating into school board documents as revisions to existing privacy policies.

In the NKSC case, the board was considering two relevant revisions foisted on schools by Biden’s DOE – along with a host of others.

The first relevant revision proposes: “Failing to take reasonable steps to protect students’ privacy related to their transgender status, including their birth name or sex assigned at birth, may be a violation of Title IX [emphasis added] when a school limits students’ educational rights or opportunities. Additionally, nonconsensual disclosure of personally identifiable information, such as a student’s birth name or sex assigned at birth, could be harmful to or invade the privacy of transgender students and may also violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) [emphasis added].”

The proposed policy revision states that information about assigned sex at birth, name change for gender identity purposes, gender transition, medical or mental health treatment related to gender identity, or any other information of a similar nature is illegal under Rhode Island law.

It also hinted that those could be violations of federal law.

“The United States Department of Education and the Rhode Island Department of Education have issued guidance stating that school districts shall adhere to both Title IX and FERPA in order to protect transgender, gender non-conforming and transitioning students from discrimination and to protect their privacy,” said the policy packet the board members were considering.

The second relevant revision proposes that district staff may not disclose information revealing a student’s transgender status to parents “unless legally required to do so, or unless the student has explicitly authorized such disclosure.”  

It then gives school employees cover to lie to parents about gender status, instructing that staff “should use the student’s legal name and the pronoun corresponding to the student’s gender assigned at birth [emphasis added]” when talking to parents.  

Lukascko, a 25-year career education bureaucrat, oversaw health services at Ramapo College in New Jersey before retiring to Rhode Island, reported the local paper, The Independent.  

She also served as the chairperson for the Diversity Committee, the Health and Safety Committee, and the Pandemic Committee at the college, and was a twice-elected public education official and vice president of the local school boards’ association, said the newspaper.  

Lukascko was appointed to her current term by the North Kingstown Town Council after multiple resignations, leaving a majority of the current school board appointed, not elected. 

“This [is] the third person the town council has had to appoint in the last 17 months. I find this troubling,” Town Council President Greg Mancini told The Independent.  

The 417-page packet of information the district was considering at the meeting used the term “transgender” 53 times, while mentioning “scores” just six times, offering support to critics who say schools are focusing too much on ideology and not enough on academics.

As she wrapped up her remarks to the board on the so-called privacy revisions, Lukascko made it clear what she believes about parents’ rights. 

“So my point would be that we should never notify parents on these issues,” she said. “I don’t think we should notify parents on many issues that we notify parents on.” 

Four of the five sitting school board members, including Lukascko, will be up for election in November, said the local newspaper.