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Lawmaker Seeks to Change Policies Limiting What Teachers Can Tell Parents

Assemblyman Bill Essayli, R-Norco, on Monday will announce legislation to assert the freedom of teachers to openly communicate with parents regarding their children’s gender transition decisions, based on a Jurupa Valley educator’s firing over her predisposition toward full disclosure.

“This legislation seeks to protect parental rights, ensuring that parents know what is going on with their child at school, instead of having the teacher replace the parent in discussing important personal matters,” Essayli said in a statement.

The assemblyman will hold a briefing at 8:30 a.m. Monday near the entrance to Jurupa Valley High School on Bellegrave Avenue, where Jessica Tapia was terminated earlier this year following her challenge to a Jurupa Unified School District policy that limited her ability to convey messages to parents regarding their children’s gender identity preferences.

Specific components of the proposed legislation, including a bill number, will be detailed during the announcement. 

According to published reports, Tapia ran afoul a district policy stemming from Assembly Bill 1266, which took effect in 2014. 

The bill focused on “pupil rights,” expanding on Section 221.5 of the California Education Code regarding students’ participation in courses and extracurricular activities.

The thrust of AB 1266 was that a “pupil shall be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.”

There were no explicit provisions written into the bill prohibiting educators from talking with parents about their kids’ gender choices. However, legal guidelines attached in a companion measure cited the California Public Records Act, Article 1, Section 1 of the state constitution and the federal Family Educational & Privacy Rights Act — FERPA — in establishing limits on what educators are permitted to disclose.

The measure notes that health emergencies are recognized as an immediate qualifier enabling open communications, and there’s also a proviso that, “if a school employee develops a concern about a student based on the employee’s observations or personal interactions with the student, the employee may disclose that concern to anyone” without fear of repercussions. 

However, the measure cites a preference for disclosures to “professionals” ahead of parents. 

Tapia told one media outlet that she deferred to her Christian principles and her own personal standards as a parent in deciding that she would not hesitate in contacting students’ parents when she learned a child was gravitating to a new “gender identity.”

“I think parents have the right to know everything about their children,” she said. “And I will not partake in withholding any information from a parent.”

Tapia alleges that the Jurupa Unified School District found her religious convictions conflicted with the district’s policy regarding non-disclosure, and she lost her job because of it. She has filed a civil suit against the district based on religious viewpoint discrimination.

JUSD released a statement last week, saying, “The district denies the allegations raised by Ms. Tapia. The district takes seriously its obligation to accommodate its employee’s religious beliefs. Simultaneously, the district is obligated to comply with all local, state and federal laws, including anti-discrimination laws and laws that protect students’ rights to privacy, which are in place to protect the nearly 2,500 employees and 18,000 students we serve.”

Source: NBC Los Angeles

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