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  • Sameer Wason

CUSD Denies Parental Notification Proposal

Tensions were high at the district office at the Oct. 18 monthly Board meeting as the Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) Trustees shot down the “Consideration For A Board Policy For Parental Notification” in a 5-2 vote. The item, proposed by Trustee Lisa Davis, would have required teachers and staff to notify parents of pronoun changes and/or preferred name changes.

CUSD, along with a handful of other Southern California school districts came under fire from members of the LGBT+ community, calling this motion an “outing bill,” whereas many parents expressed that they feel ostracized from their children’s lives.

Unlike the district board meetings of Orange Unified and Chino Valley Unified, speaking time was limited, and a time constraint was set to 10 p.m.. In spite of the limited speaking time, crowds showed in large numbers with opponents of the policy wearing purple and proponents wearing white. The board urged against cheering, leading both sides to display their support through phone flashlights, snaps or hand-waving.

Over 100 speakers from all across the district showed up to attempt to convince both the trustees and the public of the pros and cons of the passing of the bill. Some notable figures included attorneys, college counselors, members of LGBT Orange County, congregation leaders, and members of the city council of San Clemente.

The proponents of the policy, largely parents of students, were concerned with the lack of transparency, where many felt as if secrets were being kept from them. One parent argued that “keeping [parents] involved is a necessity,” and that the policy would “foster transparency and trust” between parents and children. Others went further to argue that schools were offering too much liberty of privacy to students, with one parent saying “children don’t have a right to privacy.” A petition boasting 2,179 signatures in support of the policy was presented to the board.

The opponents of the policy were largely students from across the district including many members of the LGBT+ community. The comments were personal and emotional as students told their stories, many mentioning tumultuous home lives or their journeys as they came out to their friends and family. The arguments presented discussed the danger of the policy, citing anecdotes as well as statistics, including but not limited to transgender suicide and violence against members of LGBT+ within the household.

A leader at LGBT OC mentioned, “...not all students have parents who are supportive or affirming.”

A congregation leader began his time by telling students that they “are a blessing to this world… there is a place for [them]...,” conceding that he is “opinionated… but you can help…by listening.”

As speaking time concluded, the trustees discussed among themselves in front of the crowd. Trustee Lisa Davis announced her support of the policy both before and after public speaking time as an address to the mental health crisis faced by students across the country. Student Board Member Tyler Pearce was the most out-spoken of the group as he questioned Davis of the specific changes she was making to the in-place mandated reporting required of teachers.

Davis responded, claiming the policy was meant to report anything that “affects their mental health.” This responsibility prompted Pearce to question if it was up to the interpretation of teachers as to what they report.

Pearce asked, “will private conversations about gender or sexuality be revealed to parents under this policy?”

Davis responded, “I am not homophobic nor a bigot. I would want my four children to be part of the conversation with me.”

Trustee Judy Bullockus cited the pandemic as a multiplier of already prevalent mental health issues and believed that the policy “[protected] students”.

Trustee Gila Jones prefaced that she “[didn’t] care who wrote this policy,” and that “parental engagement is what we should be talking about.” Many of Jones’ comments supported the idea that the policy was a work-in-progress, rather than a finished idea.

Trustee Michael Parham added that he “[hasn’t] heard anecdotes that teachers are hiding [info from parents].”

Newly-hired superintendent Dr. Christopher Brown echoed this, citing “zero complaints from parents about being kept in the dark about [student] identity.”

As Davis and Bullockus dissented from the 5-2 vote, Pearce and Jones called for a revised document that enumerated power to teachers, rather than an “umbrella of mental illness.”

Besides the policy, the Board:

- Entered a data-sharing agreement with the Paper tutoring company

- Hosted a presentation by Education and Support Services staff of a review of the 2022 2023 division accomplishments.

- Approved a number of gifts donated to the District, including $165,246.90 in cash.


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