Today, there are more and more reports of schools adopting policies that quietly facilitate the social transitions of self-identified transgender students without the consent or knowledge of parents. Despite the fact that these social transitions almost invariably lead to later medical interventions, these schools insist on accommodating students by using their requested pronouns, new names, preferred bathrooms, and more. In most cases, school leadership instructs staff to actively lie to parents if the school deems the parents to be “unsupportive” of their child’s gender identity.

These policies are often boosted by child welfare proposals like California’s AB 957. If that bill is signed, as Governor Gavin Newsom has promised, California judges will be required to consider whether a parent “affirms” a child’s “gender identity” during custody battles. Together with opaque school gender policies, it’s not too difficult to imagine blue states moving to take care and custody away from gender-critical parents who are desperately trying to save their children from school systems that rush down the path toward medical intervention.

Such breathtaking interference with parent-child relationships is not only illegal, it is immoral.

For 100 years, the Supreme Court has recognized parents’ fundamental, constitutional right to direct the upbringing of their own children. As recently as 2000, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, writing for the majority in Troxel v. Granville, stated that the liberty interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children “is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court.”

Beyond the violation of the Constitution’s implicit right to govern one’s minor children, though, these school policies may violate other federal laws as well.

These include the First Amendment’s prohibition on compelled speech and its guarantee of free exercise for students or administrators whose beliefs diverge from a school’s prevailing leftist gender orthodoxy but are nevertheless required to use preferred pronouns; the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which gives parents the right to inspect the information in their child’s education records—including any and all gender identity or related mental health data—whether held by the state, the local district, or school; and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment, which gives parents the right to opt out their children from participation in federally funded surveys, instruction, or evaluations used to elicit answers on sensitive questions concerning sexual behavior and attitudes, mental or psychological diagnoses, and more.

Transgender pride plag
WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 22: A transgender flag sits on the grass during the “Trans Youth Prom” outside of the U.S. Capitol building on May 22, 2023 in Washington, DC.
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Parenting one’s own children is not just an interest protected by federal law, it is a universal and inalienable precept that pre-dates government itself. That this conversation is even necessary is a function of how far we’ve fallen.

Throughout human history, the primacy of parents in the lives of their minor children and their ability to raise their children without interference has reflected our natural inclination toward that which is proper, moral, and reasonable. The Supreme Court’s rulings are ultimately based on this natural right. As Justice James McReynolds wrote in Pierce v. Society of Sisters: “the child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.” Years later, Justice Wiley Rutledge reinforced that idea, writing that: “It is cardinal with us that the custody, care and nurture of the child reside first in the parents.” And in 1972, Justice Warren E. Burger made things extremely clear: “The history and culture of Western civilization reflect a strong tradition of parental concern for the nurture and upbringing of their children. This primary role of the parents in the upbringing of their children is now established beyond debate as an enduring American tradition.”

The White House has ignored all this, of course, claiming that America’s children belong to “all of us.” Indeed, for the Left and Big Education, this narrative is essential. It is the opening salvo in the immoral effort to facilitate minors’ gender identity changes—with or without their parents’ knowledge.

This collectivist notion not only runs contrary to the American Constitution and almost every society’s historical understanding of parental rights; it has real consequences for real Americans.

Take the tragic case of Sage, a Virginia high school girl. When Sage started attending Appomattox County High School in 2021, she assumed a newfound male identity and requested accommodations from the school.

The school provided these accommodations and concealed Sage’s new identity from her parents. Not long after, Sage suffered a psychotic episode and fled, only to be raped and sex trafficked in four different states. Upon her rescue by federal authorities, a Baltimore city official argued that Sage’s parents were not “sufficiently affirming” of her new identity and assigned her to an all-male juvenile facility. There, she was sexually assaulted yet again.

Sage’s mother has filed a federal lawsuit against the school, but we should all be outraged. No matter how often progressive educators claim to know what’s best for our children, federal law—and the beating heart of every parent—know better.

Sarah Parshall Perry is a senior legal fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.

The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.

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