REPORT: The Fight for Transparency in Schools Continues

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Salinas, California parents are expressing their outrage after a hidden “Gay-Straight Alliance” club at a local middle school was uncovered last month. Jessica Konen alleged that her child was “coached” into a transgender identity (without her or her husband’s knowledge) after two teachers investigated the child’s internet search history, which also included evidence of depression. 

Amid the controversy, CPS was called on Konen when she used incorrect pronouns at a school meeting. 

“It made me feel very, very small as a parent. I was unaware of anything. Not one time had she mentioned to me ‘Oh, I think that I want to change my name,’ or ‘I’m transgender’ or anything. Nothing. I only heard bisexual one time, and that was it,” Konen said.

This practice of hiding information from parents is growing in prevalence. Teachers in Florida secretly met with a student regarding their gender identity. The parents were informed of this development only after the student attempted suicide as a result of a gender identity crisis. Meanwhile, Keller Independent School District in Texas is requiring parents to sign an NDA before they challenge pornographic materials in the district. 

While the propensity of school districts to hide controversial clubs and curriculum from families is well-known, both the extent and the degree to which they get away with it are not — from Drag Queen Story Hours to explicit sexual content to critical race theory. Parental concern or pushback is — often quite literally — laughed out of the building. 

“Public schools function as democratic institutions within their communities. They have the responsibility to instruct on, and to model, civic practices in their operation. This implies transparency in their proceedings, including school board meetings, curriculum adoption and changes, handling grievances, questions and input from the community, and adherence to sunshine laws, open records and right-to-know requests…if the perception of unethical practices arises, the institution risks losing the community support on which it depends” said the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s Bonnie Kerrigan Snyder. 

“Schools also provide students with their first direct experience of participating in our system of self-governance. The means are the lesson. You cannot effectively teach democratic principles in word while simultaneously undermining them in deed,” she continued.

An education training session in a North Carolina district encouraged teachers to ignore parental concerns about anti-racism. As the COVID-19 pandemic began, a Philadelphia teacher worried that parental involvement would mean that they could no longer have “honest conversations” with students.

The careful circumvention of parental concerns stretches back into history. In the aftermath of Brown v. Board of Education, northern school boards often wrestled with black families, who desired increased control. On a university level, in 1968, UC Berkeley covered up the fact that they hired a professor who referred to the raping of white women as “an insurrectionary act.” 

Alas, this hesitancy to allow parental scrutiny finds ideological justification. “You can’t let parents deter you from the work,” the North Carolina program said. “White parents’ children are benefiting from the system” of whiteness and are “not learning at home about diversity (LGBTQ, race, etc.).” Therefore, teachers have an obligation to subvert parental wishes and beliefs—or so runs the argument. Any “pushback,” the teachers explained, is merely because white parents fear “that they are going to lose something” and find it “hard to let go of power [and] privilege.”

Only now are state and federal officials beginning to take action. Texas governor Greg Abbott has introduced a “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” which would include an amendment to the Texas Constitution establishing families as the “main decision makers” in their children’s lives. 

“When it comes to the classroom, Texas parents should have every right to know what their children are being taught,” Abbott explained in a news release. “Under my plan, we will expand parents’ access to course curriculum, and all material that is available in schools. Also, we will ensure that if a parent has a concern about curriculum or policies, that those concerns are heard quickly and respectfully.”

Florida governor Ron DeSantis has introduced a similar proposal, while House minority leader Kevin McCarthy and Missouri senator Josh Hawley have proposed federal legislation aimed at protecting parental liberty. 

“Our Parents Bill of Rights will protect parental involvement by reinforcing their right to be heard, their right to see curriculums and their right to be updated on any violent activity that happens on their children’s campus,” McCarthy explained back in November.

Pushback from left-wing pundits, academics, advocacy groups, and elected officials has already begun, but for families, transparency can’t come soon enough. 

“I’ve watched my daughter—what she went through. It really broke my heart,” Konen’s father told The Epoch Times. “My daughter’s done nothing wrong. If anything, she’s too much of a good mom.”

“Right is right, wrong is wrong…I think it’s not their place to teach what they’ve taught to my granddaughter.”

Garion Frankel
Garion Frankel is a graduate student at Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service with a concentration in education policy and management. He is a Young Voices contributor, and Chalkboard Review’s breaking news reporter.