No issue better demonstrates the need for school choice than gender ideology, which has swept the public education system over the past few years, roping in thousands of vulnerable and impressionable children and stripping their parents of their rights.

Gender ideology is not only taught as fact in public school classrooms. It is also enforced administratively. Teachers and peers alike are required to accept a gender-confused student’s new identity by referring to them by their preferred name and pronouns and even allowing them into the restroom of their choice. Refusing to abide by this new identity could get you fired or subjected to a Title IX investigation.

Parents who might be concerned about their children’s mental health and gender dysphoria’s impact on it have no say at all in any of this. Most public schools are not required to inform the family if a student switches identities, and in many states, educators are expressly told to hide a student’s new identity from the parents so as to avoid “outing” the student.

In a recent New York Times article, for example, a California mother recalled how she discovered her 16-year-old daughter was identifying as a boy only after she found a homework assignment with a different name written on top. When she asked her student’s teacher about the different name, the teacher admitted that her child had been going by this new name and set of pronouns and using the boys’ restroom for six months. Parental permission was not required for any of this, the mother was told, because state policy requires educators to “respect the student’s wishes.”

The most disturbing part of this report is how little the California public school cares about this young girl’s well-being. She had been previously diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, as well as with ADHD, PTSD, and anxiety, according to her mother. She also struggled socially during the pandemic and has switched sexual orientations multiple times.

Her new gender identity, then, should be seen for what it is: a cry for help. Instead, her public school accepted this new identity without question, began socially transitioning her behind her parents’ backs, and pushed her to start thinking about a physical transition, including puberty blockers and a double mastectomy.

There are several ways we can start fighting back against egregious behavior such as this in the public education system. Laws requiring schools to keep parents updated about their students’ mental health and obtain permission before using a student’s new identity are a great place to start. Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act should be the model for legislation of this kind.

But there is also another solution: school choice. This week is National School Choice Week, and stories such as the one mentioned above are an important reminder of the education establishment’s many failures. Families should not be stuck in an education system that actively undermines parental rights and ideologically grooms children. They deserve the freedom to yank their students out of a school that disrespects their values and send them to one that better fits their needs.

In much of the country, the only families who have this freedom are the ones who can afford it. Everyone else is financially stuck with the public school system to which they’ve been assigned. And, as this California mother’s experience makes clear, the consequences can be devastating.

School choice also gives families the power to hold the public education system accountable — especially if it tries to force its ideology onto their children. Schools that disregard parental rights will soon find that they’re hemorrhaging funding as families take their taxpayer dollars elsewhere, and they will have no choice but to embrace reform.

Education freedom is a guaranteed way to break gender ideology’s chokehold on the public education system. And if conservatives are serious about weeding out this noxious belief system, then school choice needs to be a legislative priority.