If you are the parent of a child questioning their gender identity in the Great Valley School District, their teacher is not allowed to tell you.
In fact, under district policy, the teacher is required to keep that information secret from parents. And the teacher must also call your child by the name they choose and refer to them by the pronouns they wish.
“It seems to be a very disturbing thing to me, keeping this information from parents,” a long-time Great Valley school teacher told Delaware Valley Journal. DVJournal is withholding the teacher’s name at their request, to allow them to speak freely without the fear of backlash.
The educator said other teachers in the affluent Chester County district are also uncomfortable keeping the information secret from parents but are afraid to speak out.
In past years, a small number of kids might identify as a different gender, but since the schools opened again after the pandemic closure, the number of those students has exploded, they said.
“In September, the guidance counselor gave us the names,” the educator said. About 20 children per grade were either transitioning or thinking about changing their gender.
“We really wanted clarity,” the teacher said. “Why the district believed this was in the best interest of the kids for parents not to know this information.”
A spokesperson for the Great Valley School District did not respond to the Delaware Valley Journal’s requests for comment.
The teacher believes some staff members encourage kids to consider changing their gender. And some kids are doing it just to get attention. They have learned about being transgender on social media or through their peers or library books.
During puberty many kids are “confused and have discomfort about their bodies,” the teacher said. Most of the students who say they want to change their gender are girls, they added.
The district has even instructed elementary school teachers to withhold information about children questioning their gender.
“Especially in the upper elementary (grades), it’s permeated so much of what we do,” the teacher said.
One concern is that children who are questioning their gender might also need mental health services. How will they get those services if their parents are being kept in the dark?
“How can we rationalize keeping this information from the very stakeholders who are in the best position to help — the parents?”
Also, clubs like Safe Space run by the guidance department are not on the district’s website, so parents have no idea they exist, the teacher said.
“It’s not on the same page as the chess club, the robotics club… Basically, they don’t know.”
And any teacher who raises concerns over what can sometimes appear to be an ideological agenda in the schools is labeled “intolerant or bigoted,” the teacher said.
Bruce Chambers, a former school board president, shared an email that a guidance counselor sent to a teacher about a student who uses a different gender at school than at home:
- Name in student’s records: Grace
- Preferred name: Greg
- Preferred pronouns: they/them
- Parent Awareness: Greg’s parents are NOT aware. So please use Grace and the pronouns “she/they” if making contact with the parents
- Greg mentioned that they will write “Grace” on papers in school since the parents will see those schoolwork papers
[EDITOR’S NOTE: The names were changed to protect the student’s identity.]
Chambers, who served on the board from 2009 to 2011 and was board president for two years, is appalled by the district’s current policy. He is a grandparent now and a “concerned citizen.”
“In this case, Grace has asked to use the name Greg and the pronouns they/them. The teachers are being instructed not to tell the parents about this and go along with the name and pronoun changes that the student wants. And, you see that the teachers are aware that the student is hiding it from her parents. Also, note that the guidance counselor uses the student’s preferred name and pronoun in the last bullet,” Chambers said.
“So, basically the students are taking on a new gender, name, and pronouns in school, hiding it from their parents, and the district staff and teachers are instructed to conspire with the student to hide it from the parents,” said Chambers.
This is the district’s policy:
“All persons, including students, have a right to privacy, which includes the right to keep private one’s transgender status or gender-nonconforming presentation at school. Information about a student’s transgender status, legal name, or gender assigned at birth may constitute confidential medical or educational information. Disclosing such information to other students, their parents/guardians, or other third parties may violate privacy laws such as the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
Therefore, school personnel should not disclose information that may reveal a student’s transgender status or gender-nonconforming presentation to others, including the student’s parents/guardians and/or other school personnel, unless legally required to do so or unless the student has authorized such disclosure.
Transgender and gender-nonconforming students have the right to discuss and express their gender identity and expression openly and to decide when, with whom, and how much to share such private information. When contacting the parent/guardian of a transgender or gender-nonconforming student, school personnel should use the student’s legal name and the pronoun corresponding to the student’s gender assigned at birth unless the student, parent or guardian has specified otherwise.”
There is no age given in the policy so it could be applied to students as young as kindergarteners, said Chambers.
“Teachers need to have a trust relationship with parents,” said Chambers. “My wife (Janet) was a teacher and they pride themselves on having a relationship with parents. Holding something back is just contrary to a trusting relationship.”
Linda Stein writes for Delaware Valley Journal. This article was republished with permission from Delaware Valley Journal.