Transgender Students Must Submit Parental Consent Form

Classroom – Photo: Taylor Wilcox, via Unsplash

A Florida school district is proposing requiring transgender students to submit a parental consent form if they wish to have their gender identity acknowledged in school. 

Last Tuesday, the Lee County School Board adopted an “Equity Guide” outlining how LGBTQ-identifying students can request special accommodations from the school, especially transgender students.

Part of that process of requesting accommodations requires parents to be notified and consent by signing an authorization form if their child wishes to be addressed by their preferred name and pronouns, have their gender identity recognized by school officials and listed on their transcripts, or use facilities matching their gender identity.

Filling out the form, known as the “Gender Support Plan,” remains voluntary. The form asks various personal questions on topics ranging from extracurricular activities to dress code expectations, as well as whether a student has a supportive parent, which individuals are aware of a students’ identity, and creates a plan for if or when a student is outed. 

Once a parents’ consent has been obtained, school administrators can begin implementing agreed-upon provisions within a student’s individualized gender support plan — which remains a confidential document that can only be shared with school staff, parents and students.

But some parents are concerned that filling out the form and providing personal information will only make transgender or nonbinary children greater targets. LGBTQ advocates also worry that requiring parental consent will cause transgender, nonbinary, or questioning students to further closet themselves out of fear of being “outed” to their parents. 

“If a child wants to be addressed a certain way, I think they should be allowed to be addressed that certain way, but I don’t think we should go to the parents,” Arlene Goldberg, the co-founder of Visuality, an LGBTQ community center, told Fort Myers-based NBC affiliate WBBH. “It’s going to keep some of them in the closet when they really should be coming out.”

Sharon McGill, a member of the district’s equity committee, said the forms were put in place to protect children and teachers from running afoul of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which prohibits discussions of LGBTQ content in primary grades and requires that such topics be “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate” in older grades.

“There are laws now in the state that teachers can’t call a student a name if it’s not their correct name,” McGill said, referring to the law.

The ACLU of Florida expressed concerns about the proposed parental notification form. 

“With HB 1557 in effect, the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law has already begun to stigmatize LGBTQ+ people, isolate LGBTQ+ kids, and make teachers fearful of providing a welcoming and inclusive classroom,” the ACLU of Florida said in a statement. “Without adequate guidelines from the school board on how this personal information will be used in schools, it is uncertain whether these forms could potentially serve as another way to isolate and harm transgender youth.”

District officials say that no student is forced to fill out the form against their will and that it is not intended to single out transgender students.

“If they choose not to have accommodations they can certainly use their pronouns with friends at school but now if they want to [have accommodations] we have to involve parents,” Jessica Duncan, the executive director of student services at Lee County Schools.

The school board said that every situation that could arise from a transitioning child would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. For instance, if people object to the presence of a transgender child in a restroom not matching their assigned sex at birth, the district would encourage the student to use gender-neutral facilities.

School board members also discussed potentially erecting dividers in locker rooms to provide privacy for students who feel uncomfortable sharing spaces with transgender students, reports WINK News.

The school board has yet to make a final decision on the plan.

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