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Rocklin Academy Fact Sheet on Gender Identity - 8-30-17

Rocklin Academy - Fact Sheet - Gender Identity - 8.30.17

The Rocklin Academy Family of Schools’ top priority is protecting our students’ health, safety and well-being. At Rocklin Academy, we embrace students from all walks of life and are committed to fostering an environment of compassion.

Our grounding attitude of acceptance facilitates our school’s compliance with laws that ensure all children, including children in protected classes—disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics—are treated equally and not subjected to bullying or harassment. (Cal. Ed. Code §§200, 220; Cal. Penal Code § 422.55.)

At Rocklin Academy, and many schools throughout the nation, the topic of gender identity has become more commonplace. Accordingly, we are providing our community with information about corresponding laws and policies to help the community understand how Rocklin Academy has responded to our students’ needs.

What is gender identity?

Per the California Department of Education:
“’Gender identity’ refers to a person’s gender-related identity, appearance or behavior whether or not different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth. ‘Transgender’ describes people whose gender identity is different from that traditionally associated with their assigned sex at birth.” (See http://www.cde.ca.gov/re/di/eo/faqs.asp at Point 4.)

What laws apply to gender identity and gender expression in California’s charter schools?

California state law (Cal. Ed. Code section 200 et seq.) protects specified persons from discrimination on the basis of gender, gender identity, and gender expression.

Specifically, the California Education Code provides:

“It is the policy of the State of California to afford all persons in public schools, regardless of their disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic … equal rights and opportunities in the educational institutions of the state. The purpose of this chapter is to prohibit acts that are contrary to that policy and to provide remedies therefor.” (Cal. Ed. Code § 200.)

“No person shall be subjected to discrimination on the basis of disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression…” (Cal. Ed. Code § 220.)

In practical terms, this means Rocklin Academy has a legal responsibility to prevent or stop harassment of students on the basis of gender, gender identity, and gender expression.

What are “protected classes” of people?

California Education Code section 200 affords all students in public schools equal rights and opportunities, regardless of their disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation. These categories of individuals are treated as “protected classes.”

How does Rocklin Academy handle gender identity and gender expression with students on campus?

Rocklin Academy complies with all laws on gender identity and gender expression. This includes California laws that ensure that, as a protected class, students are not bullied or harassed based on their gender identity or gender expression. (Cal. Ed. Code § 200 et seq.) This is no different than our legal obligation to protect a child from harassment based on the student’s disability, race or religion.

Our legal obligation also includes respecting students and parents’ right to privacy, which is expressly protected by the California State Constitution. The right to privacy is extended to all Californians. There are also state and federal laws that prohibit the disclosure of confidential student records or information contained in those records unless the school has express permission from the family.

Why weren’t parents notified that there was a transitioning child in the classroom?

The child’s right to privacy under the California Constitution prohibits us from making any notifications about the presence of a transgender child in the classroom, in the same way we are prohibited from advising parents when a child of a specific ethnicity or religion is in the classroom.

A family or individual student may choose to disclose information about the student’s gender identity to the school, other parents, or other children. Many factors go into a family’s or individual’s decision to disclose or not, including concerns about disclosure provoking bullying or discrimination. Regardless of what a family or individual student choose to disclose, Rocklin Academy is required to ensure the child’s safety and well-being.

Per the California Department of Education: “A school cannot require a student to provide any particular type of diagnosis, proof of medical treatment, or meet an age requirement as a condition to receiving the protections afforded under California’s antidiscrimination statutes. Similarly, there is no threshold step for social transition that any student must meet in order to have his or her gender identity recognized and respected by a school.” (See http://www.cde.ca.gov/re/di/eo/faqs.asp at Point 5.)

Was there a “transition ceremony” in the classroom?

No. There was no ceremony and no gender “reveal.”

The transitioning child had already started using her new name and pronouns and was wearing girls’ clothing in the classroom prior to the books being read.

On the day in question, the class brought in changes of clothes for water play. At the end of lunchtime, the student changed from a girl’s outfit into a dress she had brought from home. This was not orchestrated by the teacher or the school. The child did not inform the teacher that she would change clothes. There was no class discussion about either book after they were read.

The following day, the student participated in a kindergarten graduation ceremony. She wore a dress and was referred to by her new name during the ceremony.

Rocklin Academy has not and does not plan to throw special events for students based on their gender identity. Rocklin Academy does follow all federal and state laws and school policies that require students to be referred to by their preferred pronoun and ensures administrators play their part in preventing and stopping any harassment based on a students’ identity.

Was a student punished for using the wrong pronouns to refer to a classmate?

No. No students were disciplined for using the wrong pronoun to refer to a classmate.

The California Department of Education has interpreted California law to require that students be addressed by the name and pronoun consistent with the student’s gender identity, without the necessity of legal documentation or a change to the student’s official district record. (See California Department of Education Legal Advisory, dated January 18, 2017, which can be found at: http://www.cde.ca.gov/re/di/eo/legaladvisory.asp.

Rocklin Academy will follow its existing policies and procedure, in compliance with California law, to address issues related to gender, gender identity or gender expression. If a student intentionally bullies or harasses another student on this basis—or any other protected class, such as disability, race, or religion—that student may be subject to discipline.

Are Rocklin Academy elementary students being proactively taught about gender identity and gender expression?

No. Gender identity is not part of the Rocklin Academy school curriculum. However, topics outside of the school’s curriculum do arise in the classroom. When such topics arise, our focus is threefold: treating students with respect; helping others to understand and act with respect; and following our obligations under the law.

Will literature about gender identity and gender expression be read to Rocklin Academy students?

Gender identity is not part of the Rocklin Academy’s curriculum. For 16 years, our practice has been to allow children to bring in books to classrooms to be read that are of interest to them or help classmates understand their heritage or culture. We have found this to be an excellent way to spark children’s engagement with learning to read and write. We are currently reviewing our corresponding policies and procedures related to this practice.

Why weren’t parents notified about the book and given the opportunity to opt out?

California law does not require parental notification or an opt out regarding discussions on gender, gender identity, or gender expression. Under current school policy, students are allowed to bring in books on different topics to read in the classroom. We are reviewing this policy.

Regardless of whether a book is read, the topic of gender would likely have come up for the students in this classroom.

Parents have asked whether Rocklin Academy’s actions pass a “logic test.” Can Rocklin Academy make a distinction between what’s required by law and “common sense”?

Our school board, administrators and teachers understand parents have concerns about discussions around any number of topics, including gender identity. As educators and parents ourselves, we understand and empathize with the feelings of parents on all sides of this issue. We want to equip teachers and parents to have constructive conversations with students in their community and classroom. We are also evaluating our literature policy to determine how to move forward. We started this work as soon as concerns were brought forward; however, we recognized the need to engage all our stakeholders, which we now can do with school back in session.

However, as a public school that receives state funds, we are obligated to follow the law. Among these legal requirements is our responsibility to provide a safe school environment that is free from bullying and harassment of students based on gender, gender identity, and gender expression. (Cal. Ed. Code §§ 220, 234.1.)

Rocklin Academy is bound by and cannot violate these laws. Nor can we violate the privacy rights of families at the school.

Resources
California Department of Education Guidance: http://www.cde.ca.gov/re/di/eo/faqs.asp
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