By Guy Page
Parents do not have a right to any school information about their child’s sexual identity or gender expression, a Vermont Agency of Education directive says.
In fact, school staffers who tell parents information about their child’s gender identity may actually be breaking the law, the directive states.
“Continuing Best Practices for Schools Regarding Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students” was published in February, 2017. AOE published the document because “many questions arise for students and school staff when considering the best supports for transgender and gender nonconforming students. These sample procedures are designed to provide direction for schools to address issues that may arise concerning the needs of transgender and gender nonconforming students.”
The document also says, in bold type, that the direction is not meant to be one-size-fits-all: “No single policy, approach, or accommodation will apply in all circumstances. Schools must determine supports for transgender and gender nonconforming students on a case-by-case basis, informed by the individual student’s needs.”
But in the matter of disclosing information about student gender identity, AOE says telling parents may actually violate the law, and in any case should be left to the child.
“Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), only those school employees with a legitimate educational need should have access to a student’s records or the information contained within those records. Disclosing confidential student information to other employees, students, parents [italics added], or other third parties may violate privacy laws, including but not limited to FERPA. Transgender or gender nonconforming students have the ability, as do all students, to discuss and express their gender identity and gender expression openly and decide when, with whom, and how much of their private information to share with others.”
So if a parent asks a school staff member what pronouns he or she is using, or whether he or she is expressing transgender thoughts or reading transgender material, school staffers are not only discouraged from telling parents, but may actually be in violation of the ‘Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act,’ AOE says.
Yet the FERPA was written in 1974 to give parents more access to records, not less.
According to CDC information on FERPA, “The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law enacted in 1974 that protects the privacy of student education records. FERPA applies to any public or private elementary, secondary, or post-secondary school. It also applies to any state or local education agency that receives funds under an applicable program of the US Department of Education. The Act serves two primary purposes: It gives parents or eligible students more control over their educational records, and it prohibits educational institutions from disclosing “personally identifiable information in education records” without the written consent of an eligible student, or if the student is a minor, the student’s parents (20 U.S.C.S. § 1232g(b)).
Guy Page is publisher of the Vermont Daily Chronicle. Reprinted with permission.