The Parent Trap: Balancing Students’ Rights with Parental Concerns

Oh, dear! The evening of Tuesday, April 4th was a doozy for Pima County public education, specifically Catalina Foothills School District. Yep, another day, another school board meeting full of “concerned parents” (aka transphobic activists, religious warlords, and so on). Sadly, there were lots of angry voices repeating the same convoluted talking points about transgender bathroom rights and student privacy. These “paid actors” (see what I did there?) voiced their pre-packaged, off-the-shelf opinions against students’ privacy rights while whining like victims about the district’s nondiscrimination policy.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Too many of the 42 speakers at this recent meeting had zero skin in the game. Oh, yeah, I am the parent of a child attending school in CFSD, so I do have skin in the game. Most of the level-headed families who actually have a living, breathing kid in the Catalina Foothills school district are annoyed at the proselytizing intruders who were sent on a mission from their churches in Tanque Verde and Marana. Gee, I wonder how they’d feel if…hmm. Nah, never mind.

Hey, now, did I mention that Gregg James, who was featured in local media coverage, does NOT have a child in CFSD? What nerve, dude! So, it is laughably obvious this crusade for “parents’ rights” is part of the bigger, national effort to squash any activities that do not support the GOP’s old guard political goals.

How did we get here?

It sounds like the most recent kerfuffle started after a confidential email from a middle school principal resurfaced (originally from September 2021), listing students’ preferred pronouns and those who did not want their parents to know. A district spokesperson is quoted as saying the email did not conform to district policy, according to a Tucson.com article.

But if the email’s contents were valid otherwise, here’s an easy litmus test. Which students wanted to hide their sensitive data from prying eyes? I’ll take “students whose parents are not accepting of their children’s identity choices” for $100, Mayim. Yeah, that should tell you something. Let’s believe students when they say they fear reprisals from closed-minded individuals, family or otherwise. Of course, some parents insist they want to nurture their children while also demanding the school rat out their child’s name and pronouns.

Gee, golly, why wouldn’t a “concerned parent” want adults to violate a student’s trust about such scandalous activities as gender identity? I mean, how are parents going to be informed enough to ship their kid off to some conversion therapy camp this summer? Gotta make those fun-loving, delightful plans now! It’s April already, dagnabbit!

Meanwhile, others folks in attendance at the school board meeting, including vulnerable students and their trusted allies, argued that respecting students’ identities is paramount, regardless of their parents’ views. It’s a tough balancing act for the school district–respecting a student’s mental health, safety, and privacy vs. a clueless parent’s demand to be informed at all costs. But ultimately, a child needs to feel school is a safe haven, especially if said child needs respite from a judgmental, repressive home environment.

Here’s the deal: all students, regardless of their gender identity, deserve respect and equal treatment. It’s not rocket science. Schools should have policies that prevent discrimination based on gender identity, and parents shouldn’t be allowed to override these policies. Plain and simple.

Trans rights are human rights

The school board’s role

Don’t get me wrong, concerns raised by real parents (not political operatives) are important, but let’s not forget that the school board is tasked with upholding the rights of all students in its district. Policies and practices should be inclusive and respectful across the board, regardless of gender identity. And CFSD has an open enrollment policy (opt-in, “school choice,” and all those buzz words), which means many families from outside the district boundaries (i.e., CFSD serves 36 Tucson-area zip codes), desirous of CFSD’s impressive, quality education (rated the number one school district in Arizona, four years in a row), send their kiddos here. It’s vital that policies and practices are inclusive and respectful, regardless of a student’s background.

My view is simple: If you fear your Jack has become a Jill behind your back, you need to do some deep soul searching about why your kid doesn’t believe you love them unconditionally. But more to the point: tough burnt cookies, you “concerned parents”! You chose to send your kiddo here, knowing full well the school district’s reputation and priorities. What do you expect? Stop trying to remake a successful, respected school district into your flawed religious surrogate! Stop your damn holy war of hateful, right-wing, fascist incursions!

And finally, hecklers beware. You will never, ever solve anything by YELLING about it at school board meetings. Your behavior in public speaks volumes about what’s going on in private (your home). You want to be heard? Look, if you can’t control yourself and have calm, civil discussions at these meetings, expect parents like me to match your disrespect, either overtly or at the very least, with secret disdain for your self-righteous ranting. School boards are supposed to be bipartisan entities, but lately, they are not. So who do you think intentionally flipped that switch, eh? Yeah, you know who I’m talking about, don’t cha?

Moving forward

School board meetings must be where the voices of real district students and families are listened to, heard and understood, thoughtfully considered, and equally respected, even if we don’t always agree. It’s also important that we district parents remain vigilant and defend against the outside influences that seek to undermine our school district’s progress.

District families must focus on the facts and ignore the disinformation campaigns spoon-fed by society’s dinosaurs to the willfully ignorant. We must filter out repetitive talking points given to planted political puppets who are coached by outside MAGA interests. We must dismantle the inhumane, punishing barriers being erected by authoritarian zealots and protect CFSD’s safe and inclusive learning environment for all students.

Let’s each commit to working together with the members of CFSD’s school board towards their goal of a more inclusive and compassionate world. Together, we can create a brighter, more hopeful future.


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1 thought on “The Parent Trap: Balancing Students’ Rights with Parental Concerns”

  1. This is such a powerful article. Absolutely on target! Good for you, Ms. Bayne, for articulating a reasoned, moral position so well.

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