Parents desperate to protect emotionally vulnerable children from cultlike indoctrination and secretive gender transitions need to leave the public school system, but not all families can afford alternative options to residentially assigned public schools. School choice programs help families escape government schools and swiftly find and afford safe education options for their children.

Parents are increasingly aware of the federal, state, and local policies that embrace and enforce gender ideology in the K-12 education system. Just as they did during prolonged school closures, parents are raising concerns at school board meetings and demanding that elected officials take action. But the radical gender ideology train has already left the station in many states and districts.

Parents are shining the light on gender activist-drafted lessonsbooks, and materials. They’re asking why teachers are telling children that they can be born in the wrong body. They want to know why schools are suddenly teaching their children that doctors guess a baby’s gender at birth and sometimes get it wrong. They’re horrified that schools are telling girls with underlying mental problems that adopting a new gender identity is the only way to relieve emotional distress.

Parents are beginning to realize that activists spent the last seven years putting policies in place to transition children and then hide their new names, identities, and pronouns from parents through “Gender Support Plans.” These plans are based on the radical assumption that the only acceptable response to children who state that they are experiencing a disconnect between their body and a perceived “gender identity” is an immediate and unquestioning affirmation of a new gender identity. Schools tell highly sensitive children, often girls, that, regardless of their struggles with depression, anxiety, obsession rumination, or eating disorders, cutting off their breasts (“top surgery”) and a lifetime of high-risk testosterone injections (“gender-affirming care”) will bring them “trans joy.” To make matters worse, public school policies punish school staff and parents who do not adhere to this radical belief system.

Awareness is the first step to stopping radical gender ideology’s lessons and policies. It will take a while, however, to identify all of the materials created by activist organizations such as Gender SpectrumGLSEN, and Advocates for Youth. It will take even longer to reverse the policies in place in states and districts across the country, including Virginia, where every school district has to implement the state’s “ model policies for the treatment of transgender students.” Even though Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin regularly declares that “parents matter,” the state’s activist-drafted policies ensure that they don’t. The gender activists are in charge of Virginia schools, not parents.

Abigail Shrier, author of Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, has likened sending children to public schools to dropping them off with the Moonies. The public school policies that promote aggressive and secretive gender transitions override parental decision-making and harm children by driving a cultlike wedge between children and their parents at a time when children need their parents most. If parents even gently question their children’s new belief system, they suddenly become the child’s enemy. Parents who choose to affirm the child’s biological sex are punished and risk being reported to Child Protective Services. The public education system has been rigged against parents — deliberately so.

That’s why it’s so important for parents who want to shield their children from gender ideology to pull their children from activist-controlled public schools and choose alternative education options. Many parents are doing just that — sending their children to faith-based private schools, selecting classical education models, or joining homeschool communities. Expanding education freedom ensures families will be able to make this choice without worrying about the cost. Initiatives like education savings accounts make sure education funding follows the student when they leave the public school system. That way, all families, not just those with the most resources, can afford escape routes from the public school system if they choose to leave.

If governors and state legislators are serious about empowering parents to direct the care, upbringing, and education of their own children, they must ensure that education funding follows students to education options chosen by parents. It’s time for state leaders to stop prioritizing radical gender activists over parents and children. To protect children from gender ideology and empower parents, states must expand education freedom options.