Murrieta school district told to not enforce outing policy

Murrieta Valley school district

The Murrieta school district must stop enforcing its policy that would require staff to out trans students to their parents, the California Department of Education ordered after it said that the policy discriminates against transgender students. Photo: Murrieta Valley Unified School District YouTube page.

The Murrieta school district must not enforce its policy that would out trans students to their parents, the California Department of Education ordered after it said that the policy discriminates against transgender students.

The letter, which was sent Wednesday, gives the Murrieta Valley Unified School District five days to tell staff and students that the policy will not be implemented.

The policy, which was approved in August, requires 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 or other official records.

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Last month, Superintendent Ward Andrus suggested rescinding the policy, but the board voted 3-2 to keep it.

District spokesperson Monica Gutierrez, who could not be reached for comment, told the Press Enterprise that the district “has not implemented the policy, hence there has been no enforcing.” Gutierrez did not explain why the policy has not been implemented, according to the article.

The state education department’s letter says that the policy violates anti-discrimination laws because it “singles out and is directed exclusively toward one group of students based on that group’s legally protected characteristics of identifying with or expressing a gender other than that identified at birth. And the application of that policy adversely impacts those students.”

“To further clarify, the policy mandates that sensitive often private information, which is unique to a class of students with protected characteristics, must be disclosed by school administrators even if the student does not consent to the parent disclosure,” according to the letter.

“This policy circumvents a student’s determination of when and where to share private personal information regarding gender identification and expression and it is required to be divulged without regard for the nuances of the relationship between the student and parent,” according to the letter.

The state education department letter sent its letter after two district teachers, Karen Poznanski and Jamie Goebel, filed a complaint against the district with the department.

Poznanski told the school board on March 14 that she and Goebel had filed the complaint.

“Since August, Murrieta Valley Unified School District has maintained a ‘parental notification’ policy that outlined methods by which to harmfully out LGBTQ+ students,” Poznanski told Q Voice News.

“This policy not only violated the privacy and dignity of our students but also perpetuated harm and discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals and their families. As a parent and teacher in this district, deeply committed to the well-being and rights of all my students, I found myself unable to stay silent in the face of such injustice.”

The state education department’s decision is “a testament to the power of collective action and our unwavering commitment to justice,” she said.

“But our work is far from over. As we celebrate this decision, we must also recognize the challenges that lie ahead. We must continue to educate ourselves and our community about LGBTQ+ issues, dismantling prejudices and biases wherever they may exist. We must provide unwavering support to LGBTQ+ students, families, and staff, ensuring that they feel safe, valued, and respected in every aspect of their lives. It is my privilege to stand alongside them in solidarity, and I am committed to continuing this journey toward a more just and inclusive future for all students.”

Murrieta’s outing policy is a replica of policies passed by other Southern California public school districts, including Chino Valley, Temecula, and Orange.

Supporters call them “parental notification” policies, but those terms are dog whistles for extremists who are guided by religious extremists who want to force the LGBTQ+ community back into the closet.

Critics say the policies 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.

State Attorney General Rob Bonta has sued to block the Chino Valley Unified School District from implementing its policy. A Riverside County judge has issued a preliminary junction against it as it makes it way through the courts.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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