California’s Parental Rights Clash: State vs. Families
In a recent legal battle in California, a crucial question has emerged: who holds the right to make decisions in the best interests of children—parents or the state? This fundamental issue is at the center of a lawsuit initiated by California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) against the Chino Valley Unified School District.
The conflict began when the district’s board implemented a policy in July, mandating that school officials inform parents if a child wishes to identify as a different gender. Attorney General Bonta promptly launched an investigation and filed a lawsuit against the district. In August, a judge issued a temporary restraining order preventing the policy’s implementation.
The crux of Bonta’s legal argument is that notifying parents about their children’s gender transitions infringes upon the children’s right to privacy. This argument is fundamentally flawed. Gender transitions within a school environment are not private affairs but rather public, observable events. When a child adopts a new name, different pronouns, or utilizes different restrooms at school, these changes are visible to everyone in the school community.
In essence, Bonta is not safeguarding anyone’s “privacy”; he is withholding information from parents. Moreover, the notion that minor children possess a right to privacy against their guardian parents is questionable. Parents are responsible for supervising all aspects of their children’s lives, and children typically enjoy privacy to the extent that their parents permit. This is a time-honored and necessary arrangement, as parents need to be aware of their children’s activities to fulfill their role in guiding their upbringing.
Children attend public schools because their parents entrust the education aspect of their development to these institutions. Schools do not possess inherent authority over every aspect of children’s lives. Bonta’s approach reflects a lack of trust in parents. He contends that schools should keep children’s gender transitions a secret because some parents might react harshly if they were informed.
While it is possible that some parents could react negatively, there is little to no evidence of such reactions occurring in Chino Valley or elsewhere. Parents might also respond inappropriately if their child receives poor grades or faces disciplinary issues at school. Still, schools routinely provide parents with that information. The mere possibility that a few parents might react adversely is an insufficient reason to withhold information from all parents.
It is a longstanding assumption that parents are best positioned to guide their children and have the right to do so. Government intervention in parental rights is only warranted when there is clear evidence of a necessity to prevent harm in specific cases. Laws and policies are already in place to safeguard students in situations involving potential danger at home.
Bonta’s stance turns this principle on its head, presuming that parents, in general, are untrustworthy while placing faith in the state to safeguard children’s interests. There is no valid reason to start trusting the state more than families, and, in fact, several reasons to be wary of the state’s intentions.
Common sense and the majority of California voters agree with the school district’s policy. A recent Rasmussen Reports poll reveals that 91 percent believe parents, not the government, bear the primary responsibility for raising a child, and 84 percent would support a local law mandating parents’ notification of any significant changes in a child’s physical, mental, emotional health, or academic performance.
Regardless of one’s stance on gender-identity issues, Bonta’s lawsuit lacks a legal or factual basis. It is crucial for the courts to reject his claim of authority to keep secrets from parents under the guise of “privacy,” as it could lead to broader state management of children’s lives. All California parents should hope that the courts uphold the rights of parents in this matter.