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Poll: Voters think schools should inform parents about gender changes

By Brendan Clarey
The Center Square 

Voters support school policies that require educators to tell parents about changes to their student’s pronouns, a nationwide poll found. The findings come as parental notification policies have stirred controversy as advocates and parents square off in school board meetings. 

The Center Square Voter’s Voice Poll conducted in conjunction with Noble Predictive Insights found that two-thirds of voters back measures requiring parental notification of changes in a student’s preferred gender as school gender policies have been scrutinized by the courts in recent years.

The poll of more than 2,500 registered voters, including over 1,000 Republicans and Democrats and almost 500 independents, was conducted in late October and asked respondents if teachers should “be obligated to inform parents if their child changes their gender identification or preferred pronouns at school.”

Sixty-six percent of registered voters indicated teachers should have to tell parents about changes to their student’s gender identity. 

The demographic that signaled the least support for the notification policy was Democrats, with 49% supporting it, and 30% of Democrats opposing it. Republicans and independent voters supported the measure at much higher rates, 83% and 62%, respectively. 

Democrats and Black voters were most likely to report being unsure about their position on parental notification and showed lower support for notifying parents than any other demographics. 

The issue has become politicized in recent years as parental rights organizations and conservatives have targeted policies that seek to require teachers to keep student’s gender information away from parents.

Kate Anderson, senior counsel and director of the Center for Parental Rights at Alliance Defending Freedom, told The Center Square that parental rights concerns had seen a significant uptick in the past couple of years, perhaps because of the COVID-19 pandemic, when parents saw what was happening in the schools on the kitchen table as students worked remotely at home. 

She said the poll results aligned with what ADF has seen from polling that voters broadly support parental rights. 

“People recognize parents have the best interests of their kids at heart,” Anderson said. “It’s crossing political lines with the consensus that parents need information.”

Anderson pointed out that, legally, policies requiring teachers to hide information from parents can violate free speech protections. That’s because schools with those policies may require teachers to use one name and set of pronouns for a student at school and another name and pronoun for parents.

Advocates of policies that hide students' gender preference from parents say schools should be safe places for sexual minority youth who may face unsafe situations at their homes because of their gender identity or sexuality.

“Schools should be a safe place for all students," Rev. Benita Ramsey, director of Rainbow Pride Youth Alliance, said in a media release after a California school district passed a parental notification policy this summer. 

“These policies are meant to silence and intimidate queer and trans youth from expressing themselves at school,” Ramsey said. “We will always stand alongside our youth.” 

California’s attorney general filed a lawsuit against the Chino Valley School Board, which required parental notification, and a judge has blocked its implementation as the litigation continues.

ADF has defended teachers and parents in several cases, arguing that it violates the First Amendment and a parent’s right to determine what is best for their children, especially when they are struggling with their gender identity, Anderson said. 

“Kids really need their parents when they’re struggling with this,” Anderson said. “When the government comes in and hides information from parents, it's an egregious assault on their freedoms.”

The Center Square Voter’s Voice Poll found support for parental notification was highest for older voters, although such policies received high support from voters of all ages.

Over half, 56%, of voters ages 18-34 said teachers should tell parents, while 71% of those between 55-64 and 70% of those over 65 said the same. Only 29% of those between 18-34 said teachers should not be obligated to inform parents.

Geographically, voters nationwide supported the policy to notify parents, with the highest percentage of voters in favor coming from the South at 69%, followed by the Midwest at 66%, West at 65% and Northeast at 64%.

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