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Orange Unified becomes third local district to consider gender identification

Orange Unified School District considers gender identification
Orange Unified School District considers gender identification 03:19

Inside a packed meeting, attendees delivered emotional testimonies about a polarizing social issue that's picking up steam across California. 

Orange Unified School District held the meeting to consider a parental notification policy for students wishing to identify as a different gender on campus — the third local school board to consider such a policy. 

"No one's saying that we shouldn't tell parents," said mother Darshan Smaaladen. "I think it should be done in a way that's going to benefit the whole family."

Smaaladen is also a teacher in the district. She believes trained psychologists should handle these sensitive matters and not teachers.

"They talk about parents' rights but they're not listening to the actual parents in the district," said Smaaladen. 

Some argue that the conservative majority school boards who have adopted these policies are trying to create a problem out of nothing.

"Are manipulating these parents and capitalizing on fears that parents have, creating a problem that's really not an issue," said Kristi Hirst, chief operating officer for Our Schools USA. 

Others also believe that the boards are listening to people who don't even have kids in the districts. 

"If you can't tell the parent what's happening with their children, that's wrong," said attendee Jesse Suave. "That's undermining them."

Suave also went to the parental notification meetings in Chino and Murrieta.

"We have books in our preschool, kindergarten, first-grade libraries telling kids that their gender can change like the weather," said parent and teacher Brenda Lebsack. 

She added by encouraging the idea of gender fluidity, schools could be confusing students. 

"And then if they're keeping secrets from their parents about their anxiety, that can create a mental crisis," said Lebsack. 

Some understood the concerns of both sides. 

"So, I think as parents the concern is understandable but at the same time they should wait for their children to be ready to open up," said educator and activist Dom Jones. 

"The political climate is very anti-trans right now," said Mickie.

Mickie and Sadie Yates, whose child is transgender, added that if parents are afraid of being kept in the dark, they should initiate deeper conversations with their kids. 

"For all kids to be okay with coming and saying 'Mom, dad I have gender dysphoria. I don't feel comfortable in my body,'" said Yates. 

The discussion on the policy is to be continued as the board wants to address concerns raised by trustees. A final version will most likely be voted on at the school board's Sept. 7 meeting.  

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