A recent report revealed that a local teachers union in Colorado emailed its members directing them to destroy evidence of students’ transgender information. 

Specifically, the email from the Jefferson County Education Association (JCEA) said to teachers about gender identity surveys, “If you do a questionnaire, please make it a paper and pencil activity—any digital records are more permanent and may be requested under federal law.” It further urged teachers not to keep the documents. 

In response to the outrage over the report, the union gave this statement to CBS: 

“School staff shall not disclose information that may reveal a student’s transgender status to others, including parents and other school staff, unless legally required to do so or unless the student has authorized such disclosure. … Transgender and gender-nonconforming students have the right to discuss and express their gender identity and expression openly and to decide when, with whom, and how much to share private information.”
JCEA President, Brooke Williams

Mostly false or misleading. Significant errors or omissions. Mostly make believe.

Under federal law, school staff must not hide information from parents, and parents must be able to opt their children out of surveys. Unfortunately, activist organizations such as GLSEN provide teachers with templates for “pronoun forms,” as well as other tools in a Back to School with GLSEN Resource Guide, and falsely promise students that “the school has to keep that information private.” 

One local mother, Denice Crawford, said the Colorado school district previously sent out an email to parents clarifying that mandatory surveys asking for gender identity information from students violates the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). It also explained that voluntary surveys are illegal unless parents can opt out. And so, she felt “Deceived, lied to, [and] taken advantage of” when a teacher gave her son a gender identity survey. 

Unfortunately, Colorado’s Jefferson County school district is not the only one withholding vital information from parents. A parent sued a California school district last year after the district hid her daughter’s temporary new gender identity from her; the district settled the lawsuit for $100,000 earlier this year.

While it is true that educators should protect the privacy of students, especially in front of other students and staff members, they should first instruct parents if a child is struggling. Federal law and social science back this up. 

The federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) guarantees parents’ “right to inspect and review the . . . education records” of their children. According to FERPA, education records “are records that are directly related to a student and that are maintained by an educational agency or institution or a party acting for or on behalf of the agency or institution … The information may be recorded in any way, including, but not limited to, handwriting, print, computer media, videotape, audiotape, film, microfilm, microfiche, and e-mail.”

Several states have passed legislation explicitly protecting parents’ access to information about their children. According to LeRoy Rooker, who oversaw FERPA administration at the U.S. Department of Education for over 20 years: “You can have a state law that enhances FERPA but not one that abridges those rights.” In addition, parents can inquire about children’s K-12 public school curricula and teacher training materials and submit public records requests for all surveys and materials. 

They can also opt out of surveys and file complaints under FERPA and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA). 

Countless studies have shown that parental involvement in kids’ lives improves mental health, school behavior, and academic performance. Research from the College of Education found that middle schoolers “who feel their parents are more involved in their education have fewer mental health problems resulting from being victims of bullying, including fewer suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and less overall difficulty with mental health.” Additionally, studies have demonstrated that children are less likely to skip school, are less disruptive in class, and are more likely to do their homework when they have involved parents. A review of 448 independent studies on parental involvement found that “when parents are involved in their children’s schooling, students show higher academic achievement, school engagement, and motivation.” 

Bottom Line: Kids need parental involvement for their mental, emotional, and social well-being. Because of this, schools need to keep parents informed about their children. Families should hold school districts accountable to federal law by inquiring about curricula and surveys.      

Over the course of this back-to-school season, Independent Women’s Forum will be exposing misleading and inaccurate quotes from teachers unions and their advocates through a series of Unicorn Fact Checks. This is the fifth Unicorn Fact Check in the series.