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27th Jan 2023

Teacher helps pupils change gender identity without their parents permission

Charlie Herbert

She hopes to protect the children.

A teacher in California has spoken about how they will sometimes help their students change their gender identity without their parents’ knowledge or permission.

Olivia Garrison, who is nonbinary, told the New York Times that they felt it was their job as a teacher to sometimes ‘protect kids from their own parents.’

“My job, which is a public service, is to protect kids,” Garrison said. “Sometimes, they need protection from their own parents.”

Garrison teaches at Del Oro High School in the Kern High School District (KHSD), which has a form that allows students to change their preferred name and gender marker without a parent’s signature.

The history teacher has previously posted videos on TikTok discussing how their classroom is a “queer safe space.”

They were one dozens of educators, public officials, and parents the New York Times spoke to about gender transitioning in schools.

One former student of Garrison’s, Clementine Morales, explained to the paper that they came out as nonbinary at school because they didn’t feel comfortable doing so at home.

Morales said that they needed to “look for parental figures in other people who were not my parents.”

But some parents have spoken of their anger with schools for not making them aware that their child has socially transitioned in the classroom.

Jessica Bradshaw of Torrance, California, told the Times that she felt ‘stabbed in the back’ when she learned about her 15-year-old’s social transition after reading their preferred name on a worksheet.

“There was never any word from anyone to let us know that on paper, and in the classroom, our daughter was our son,’ she said. Although she accepted her child’s decision, Bradshaw resented that the school had made her feel like a bad parent.

“It felt like a parenting stab in the back from the school system. It should have been a decision we made as a family.”

The student told the Times that he had tried to come out to his parents before, but that they hadn’t taken him seriously, whereas the school had provided him with a safe space to be himself.

“I wish schools didn’t have to hide it from parents or do it without parental permission, but it can be important,” he said.

“Schools are just trying to do what’s best to keep students safe and comfortable. When you’re trans, you feel like you are in danger all the time. Even though my parents were accepting, I was still scared, and that’s why the school didn’t tell them.”

A number of schools in California allow students to socially transition without permission from their parents.

This can involve a change in their name, pronouns or gender expression.

The guidelines on social gender transitioning vary among school districts and states though. California is one of several states where schools are advised not to disclose information about the gender identity of students without their permission.

But many states are not so open to this.

Jeff Walker, a father in Alabama and parent to a transgender student, spoke of his concern that many children will come from families that aren’t open to transition or non-gender conforming ideas.

“Not all children in this area have safe spaces at home,” Walker said.

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