State education framework outlines gender identity instruction for kindergarteners
Maryland State House on a sunny day with the Maryland flag in the foreground. (WBFF/Kyle Dodd){ }{p}{/p}

The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) is instructing kindergarten classrooms to teach about gender identity, and says that teachers in the state are not required to inform parents about their child’s desire to change genders.

Under the “gender identity and expression” subcategory of MSDE’s health education framework, it states that pre-K students should learn to “recognize and respect that people express themselves in many different ways,” and understand “that there are different types of families (e.g., singleparent, same-gender, intergenerational, blended, interracial, adoptive, foster, etc.).”

By the time those students reach kindergarten, they are expected to “recognize a range of ways people identify and express their gender,” according to the state’s health curriculum framework. Instruction on this material expands as grade levels increase, and there is only an “opt-out (not opt-in)” option for such instruction starting in grade 4. It is unclear in MSDE’s health curriculum framework whether the opt-out option is available for the parents of students below the 4th grade.

Additionally, MSDE’s guidelines regarding information disclosure asserts no state or federal law requires schools to affirmatively disclose a student’s transgender status or gender non-conforming presentation to parents. The guidance states it is up to transgender and gender non-conforming students “to decide when, with whom, and how much private information,” is shared about their status.

In a presentation for Harford County teachers on LGBT instruction, which The National Desk (TND) obtained through a Maryland Public Information Act request, the district played out several scenarios for teachers regarding the disclosure of such information to parents.

“So for this scenario – that a student has shared with you – that they are currently transitioning, and they also reveal to you that their parent does not know. You may be unsure if they are supportive of this transition or not. What you could say is, ‘thank you for letting me know. Is there anything that I can do to support you?’” one of the presenters says. “And just like the question regarding the roster, or the ‘what would you do scenario’ – same exact question – you can say back, ‘when I communicate with your parent or guardian, what name and pronouns would you like me to use?’”

A report from the conservative Heritage Foundation indicated both the constitution and other federal law “do not grant public school districts the authority to circumvent parental consent or notification” in matters relating to a student’s gender identity preference.

In Montgomery County, Maryland, following a federal lawsuit from parents against the county’s school district, arguing the refusal to disclose information about a student’s gender transition violates federal law, the district’s school board reportedly considered a policy change that would implement a process for informing parents of these matters.

However, according to the district’s 2021-2022 Guidelines for Student Gender Identity, it still remains up to the student whether such information about their gender preferences must be shared with their parents or guardians.

"The supreme court's recognized for years since Meyer v. Nebraska that parents have a constitutional right to raise and educate their children how they see fit," Sarah Perry, legal fellow for the Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation told TND. "Children are not wards of the state. They are to be parented in such a way that the parents are primary authority until the age of emancipation on things like education, health and welfare," she continued.   

"So the parent should be able to say, 'This is my child who is clearly dealing with a particular mental health expression,' whether you call it gender identity or gender dysphoria, they have to have a right to be able to say 'This is not the job of the school counselor, school psychologist, assistant principal or anybody else, it's the job of the parents to actually make the determination on the health, safety and welfare of their children.'"

Perry said she thinks sooner than later the country will start to see some of these disclosure policies challenged at the national level.

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