News (USA)

California will soon protect trans students from being outed by their schools

Students stage a walkout at Great Oaks High School in Temecula
Students stage a walkout at Great Oaks High School in Temecula Photo: X screenshot

The California Assembly on Thursday voted by a wide margin to pass legislation protecting students in the state from forced outing. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is expected to sign the bill into law.

AB 1955, known as the SAFETY Act, strengthens existing California law prohibiting school districts from enacting any policy requiring staff to disclose information about a student’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression to anyone without the student’s consent.

The bill cleared the Assembly by a vote of 60-15, after passage by the Senate.

“Forced outing policies remove opportunities for LGBTQ+ students to build trust and seek out resources that best fit their coming out experience,” said Tony Hoang, executive director of Equality California.

Hoang called the bill “timely and necessary” in the fight against “extremist politicians and school boards” imposing local policy contravening state and federal law designed to protect student privacy. He urged Gov. Newsom to sign the bill quickly.

During debate on the Assembly floor, critics of the bill called it a “blanket ban” that infringes on “parental rights.”

In 2023, at least 10 California school districts adopted policies requiring school staff to out students to their potentially unsupportive parents without the students’ permission, according to the ACLU Northern California. All of these policies seemingly violate longstanding California law and Department of Education guidances.

In April, a defiant conservative majority on the board of the Murrieta Valley Unified School District voted to ignore an order from the state of California to rescind the district’s discriminatory policy requiring educators in Riverside County to out any trans or nonbinary student who asks to be called by a name or pronoun different from the ones listed on their birth certificates.

A packed audience in the ruby red district cheered the result.

In Chico, California, a mother recently sued the local school district after officials didn’t disclose her child’s different gender identity. The case was dismissed but remains under appeal.

As multiple courts have been forced to grapple with forced outings in schools, proponents say the SAFETY Act will bring clarity to the issue.

Among other provisions in the bill, the SAFETY Act provides safeguards for teachers and school staff against retaliation for providing an inclusive school and classroom environment. 

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