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After an outcry from dozens of students, as well as faculty and state lawmakers, an attempt by two Chino Valley Unified school board members to challenge state law with an anti-transgender policy failed Thursday night.
The proposed resolution, voted down 3-2, would have excluded transgender students from using restrooms and locker rooms of their identified gender. It would also have prevented them from taking physical education classes or playing intramural sports based on their identified gender. James Na — who put forth the resolution — and board member Andrew Cruz cast the only two votes in favor of the policy after a resounding display of opposition from both students and adults.
No member of the public spoke in favor of the proposal, but the failed resolution could be a harbinger of future efforts to thwart the state’s education code, officials said.
“Are you going to place guards inside the restrooms that memorize every trans kid on campus? Are you going to make us show our school IDs to see our assigned sex at birth to just use the restroom?” asked Ayala High sophomore Max Ibarra, who identified as both transgender and non-binary. “The fact of the matter is there’s no humane way to execute these changes because the very changes themselves are inhumane.”
Students also described the proposal as harmful to queer and transgender students’ mental health.
“You (would be) doing nothing more than harming your students; the comfort of cisgender students has been prioritized for too long at the expense of our community,” said student Andrew Acebedo. “Now is the time to educate our students to practice kindness, tolerance and equity; teach them to be active members of an evolving society and not concern themselves on what is involved in someone’s pants.”
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond issued a stern warning to the district Wednesday not to violate the education code. Damon Brown, special assistant at the California Attorney General’s Office, said at Thursday’s meeting that the office was prepared to litigate if the policy was passed.
The Chino Valley resolution would have defied Section 221.5(F) of California’s education code, Thurmond said, which states:
“A pupil shall be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.”
Though Na’s proposal would have included gender-neutral facilities or single-use restrooms or changing areas as well as other alternatives, the education code states those alternatives may only be offered as a matter of personal choice and not compulsion, Thurmond said.
That section of the education code was codified through the School Success and Opportunity Act — Assembly Bill 1266 — which went into effect Jan. 1, 2014. The Calvary Chapel of Chino Hills — of which Na and Cruz are members — has been behind many of the efforts to do away with these protections.
California Department of Education Chief Deputy Mary Nicely said she doesn’t doubt there will be more school boards attempting to defy the state’s education code — likely as it pertains to vaccine mandates. Nicely said Chino Valley Unified’s proposal was the first case she is aware of a district attempting to defy the state’s trans-inclusive school policies.
Still, she said, the California Department of Education will continue to enforce the law.
“We’re here to stand up for our LGBTQ students,” Nicely said.
Chino Valley Unified’s school board, in 2013, voted to oppose the bill. Na — who put forth Thursday’s failed proposal — also supported the unsuccessful effort to repeal AB 1266, the Daily Bulletin reported.
Na’s request for the policy revision was prompted by the sexual assault of a teen girl in a school bathroom in May in Loudoun County, Virginia, though that was not made clear in the resolution itself.
The sexual assault in Loudoun County erupted into a political firestorm because the assailant — a male who had previous consensual encounters with the victim and had arranged to meet her in the bathroom that day — was wearing a skirt, the Washington Post reported. Virginia Republicans and conservative media have pointed to the Loudoun County incident as a case against trans-inclusive bathroom policies, even though the district had not adopted a trans-inclusive bathroom policy at the time. The victim’s parents told the conservative news outlet the Daily Wire that the attacker was “gender fluid,” but authorities have not confirmed that and have consistently referred to him as male.
The Loudoun County incident was among the education-related topics Virginia Republican Glenn Youngkin constantly raised in his final push before his Nov. 2 gubernatorial win.
Chino Valley Unified students speaking at Thursday’s meeting said the Loudoun County incident was an upsetting but isolated incident and should not be used to vilify transgender people. Rather, they said, the focus from the incident should be turned to preventing sexual assault.
Na, at the meeting, insisted that the resolution wasn’t “against anybody” but rather for student safety. He and Cruz appeared to be shaken by the outcry from the public as well as the other board members. Cruz at one point exclaimed “this is a Marxist system…” and was met with a burst of laughter from the audience; Na — in response to state officials’ warnings of the proposal’s legal repercussions — said, “I don’t have much respect for the state people … just look at the homeless problems.”
School board Vice President Christina Gagnier apologized to students at the meeting over the proposal, as well as a last-minute suggestion from Cruz to require transgender students to undergo psychological counseling and provide a doctor’s note in order to have equal access.
She called the proposal “divisive” and likened it to other school board proposals in the country that are also causing division.
“Topics are being brought up (at school board meetings) just to tear us apart, but the reason we are here is to support and protect our students,” Gagnier said.
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