Murrieta Valley school district under investigation for discrimination

Murrieta Valley school district

The Murrieta Valley Unified School District follows in the footsteps of the Chino Valley Unified School District and approves a policy that requires teachers to out trans and gender-nonconforming students to their parents. The 3-2 vote took place at the Aug. 10 board meeting. Photo: Murrieta Valley Unified School District YouTube page.

The Murrieta Valley school district is under investigation by state and federal agencies for discrimination related to its “forced outing policy” that was approved in August. 

Karen Poznanski, a teacher in the Murrieta Valley Unified School District, told the board of education at its regular meeting on March 14 that she and fellow district teacher Jamie Goebel jointly filed a complaint  with the California Department of Education. Poznanski’s comments begin at 39:48.

Q Voice News received a copy of the department letter that confirms an investigation was started.

The letter, dated March 12,  in part said that “The CDE has reviewed your request alleging discrimination on the basis of a protected characteristic and determined it necessary to  accept direct intervention in this case… and the CDE will investigate the complaint.” 

Poznanski also told the board that she individually filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and was given a confirmation number.

The Murrieta Valley school board adopted the Chino Valley Unified School District’s “parental notification” policy, which critics call the “forced outing policy,” at its Aug. 10 board meeting.

The policy would require school employees to notify parents and guardians, within three days, if a student requests to be identified or treated as a gender other than the one listed on their birth certificate.  The district is embroiled in a lawsuit filed by Democratic state Attorney General Rob Bonta, who has called the original policy discriminatory.

Tony Thurmond, the state superintendent of public instruction, emailed the Murrieta Valley board and asked  board President Paul Diffley and district Superintendent Ward Andrus to remove the policy from the agenda.

He  was concerned that it “could force school employees to put students who identify as LGBTQ+ at risk” of harm and abuse in their home if they are not ready to have their gender identity disclosed. 

LGBTQ+ youth have a 120% higher risk of experiencing some form of homelessness with family conflict and/or rejection being the number one cause, according to the National Network for Youth. 

The discussion on the dias during the Aug. 10 meeting included more talk about genitalia and surgery than one would expect to hear at a school board meeting and included a tirade of misinformation from trustees Julie Vandegrift, Nicolas Pardue, who compared gender identity with children getting tattoos, and Diffley, who said  students should not get surgeries without parents being informed. No evidence exists that students have had surgeries without parental consent.

“The classroom should be a safe space from all this gender stuff,” Pardue said, but didn’t acknowledge what it would mean to remove all aspects of gender discussion from the classroom.

Diffley even acknowledged the danger of the policy.

 “Yes I agree that there are some parents that may beat their kids, spank their kids, ignore their kids,” he said.

Poznanski told Diffley at the March 14 board meeting that those comments cannot be overlooked and are being investigated by the state Education Department.

In a 3-2 vote, the policy was approved with trustees Linda Lunn and Nancy Young voting no and warning their counterparts of the potential risks to LGBTQ+ students and the potential financial costs of lawsuits.

At the March 14  board meeting, Poznanski, who warned the board at its Sept. 14 meeting about potential discrimination and safety issues with the policy, noted that the Rocklin Unified School District faced a similar challenge, and its  identical policy violated numerous sections of the state education code, according to the state Education Department. 

The Education Department mandated the immediate termination of the policy and warned about serious consequences for noncompliance, including withholding of state and fiscal support.

Rachel Cagwin Dennis writes about issues impacting the LGBTQ+ community in the Inland Empire.

About the author

Rachel Cagwin Dennis

Rachel Cagwin Dennis (she/her) is a recovering evangelical pastor turned community activist-minister in the Temecula Valley. When she’s not getting into “good trouble,” you can find her in her garden, reading under a tree, hanging with family and friends, or napping with her cats.

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