Editor's note: This column was co-authored by Theresa Farnan, an adjunct professor of philosophy at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.
As the new school year begins, many parents of children in public schools are deeply concerned, wondering if they should keep their kids in public school or just get out now.
For these parents, the transgender agenda is the game-changer. Under pressure from transgender activists, progressive politicians, teacher unions, and the education establishment, and despite parents’ opposition, America’s public schools are capitulating to ideologues and implementing the radical transgender agenda with full force. Parents were put on notice by “bathroom policies” that opened private spaces to anyone who asserts that “gender identity,” regardless of biological sex, but those policies are only the tip of the iceberg. New transgender policies or “gender identity” protections are fast redefining what it means to be a person, male or female. Activists want every child, from kindergarten on, to learn that “sex” is something “assigned at birth” rather than a biological reality. They want children to think that individuals get to choose their own “gender identity” (not limited to male or female), and that everyone else must affirm that “gender identity” as true. Even worse, if a child claims a transgender identity, the school will keep that identity hidden from parents unless that child allows the parents to know.
There are no “safe spaces” in public schools now for children (or teachers) who reject the gender revolution. In the name of inclusion, all “gender identities” are affirmed as normal and good.
Where does this leave parents? Even in a school with good teachers and staff, they cannot trust their public school. Teachers and administrators must comply with the transgender agenda or risk losing their jobs – despite their own convictions. Even more troubling is the shocking realization that there is almost nothing that parents (or teachers) can do to prevent the schools from imposing policies designed to indoctrinate children with gender ideology.
In Fairfax County, Virginia, for example, dedicated parents fought back hard against the transgender agenda. The school board’s proposed policy replaced references to “biological sex” with the politically charged term “gender assigned at birth.” Parents organized themselves, reviewed curriculum materials, attended school board meetings, wrote letters, publicized their positions, and presented evidence against the proposed “gender identity” policies. But after three years of fighting, these dedicated parents got nowhere. Their concerns were ignored; their proposals dismissed.
The deck was stacked against the parents from the start. According to Fairfax County School Board member Elizabeth Schultz, the board “reverse-engineered” the process, by ensuring that policy recommendations were “made first and already forwarded to the board before any public input was sought.” Parents’ supposed input was meaningless, just a sham. “That’s not authentic public engagement,” complained Schultz. “That’s not how you build effective policy.”
Meg Kilgannon, executive director of Concerned Parents and Educators of Fairfax County, also noted that parent input was disregarded. “In Fairfax, ten citizens per meeting may address the school board during public comments. The person addressing the board must confine his or her remarks to the agenda topics slated for discussion and votes that evening. So not only is the public engagement very limited, the die is cast. By the time a topic is on the agenda, the school board members have already made a decision about how they will vote.” Despite many emails from parents opposing the new policy, Fairfax County School Board still imposed it.
Similarly, Clark County School Board in Nevada steamrolled over parental opposition, implementing transgender regulations that pushed trans-affirming curricular materials into the classroom, allowed transgender-identified students to use bathrooms reserved for the opposite sex, and compelled students and staff to use the preferred pronouns of transgender or gender non-conforming students. The policy was pushed through over parents’ objections, despite surveys demonstrating that a clear majority of residents opposed the changes. The Las Vegas Review-Journal noted, “Parents who oppose the policy repeatedly told the board they felt their suggestions and concerns were not being heard by the board, as evident by the draft policy.”
These examples illustrate the kind of tactics school districts employ to implement significant changes over the objections of parents. Parents who set out to counter these policies run into a formidable bureaucracy, a left-wing education establishment that functions something like a deep state. As one Politico writer notes, “political scientists and foreign policy experts have used the term deep state for years to describe individuals and institutions who exercise power independent of—and sometimes over—civilian political leaders.” In public education, the “deep state” describes a coalition of various groups – including teachers’ unions, progressive advocacy groups, major corporations, and philanthropists --that work together to promote the progressive worldview in public education. School districts use an array of progressive “experts,” who serve as authorities on controversial issues, to write policies, conduct staff training, give workshops for students and supplement curricula. These authorities then are invoked to squelch parents’ concerns – after all, parents are not the “experts.”
Even worse, parents don’t have much to fall back on legally or politically. Courts long ago ruled that parents have no say about the curricula used in their child’s public school. School boards, despite being elected and therefore in theory answerable to constituents, are susceptible to pressure from well-funded advocacy groups rather than parents. According to Kilgannon, “School board members in Fairfax are accountable to the voting public. But because they are reelected time and time again, they are not responsive to parents whose views and beliefs differ from their own.” In the few instances where school boards have listened to parents and have resisted the imposition of transgender ideology, radical progressive left groups use litigation to bring them into compliance.
Over the years, conservative and Christian parents have attempted to work within the system to reform public education. The swift capitulation of public school districts to transgender ideology, however, illustrates that parents are powerless to protect their children from the transgender agenda as long as their children attend public schools. It’s time to get out now.
Hasson and Farnan are the co-authors of "Get Out Now: Why You Should Pull Your Child From Public School Before It's Too Late."