Kansas’ attorney general said that while there is no law in Kansas requiring schools to disclose a student’s gender identity to parents, a school policy that allows staff to “conceal” a student’s transgender or non-binary identity violates parents’ rights.
“Changing a child’s gender identity has long-term medical and psychological consequences,” said Attorney General Kris Kobach. statement Thursday. “Parents need to know and be able to participate in such an important aspect of their well-being.”
Kobach’s statement comes after a letter he said he wrote early last year sent six Kansas school districts to tell school officials that their policies, which allow school officials to hide a student’s transgender or gender nonconforming status from parents, violate parents’ rights.
Two of the districts, the Belle Plaine School District and the Maize Unified School District, told Kobach at the time that they had no intention of hiding the students’ gender identities from parents, according to Kobach’s statement. However, four other school districts — Kansas City Kansas Unified School District, Olathe Unified School District, Shawnee Mission Unified School District and Topeka Unified School District — “died in their heels and claimed that school leaders know better than parents,” Kobach said.
Kobach said some district officials denied that their policies allowed staff to hide a student’s transgender status from parents. The Olathe school district, just outside Kansas City, has requested a meeting with Kobach, “but despite repeated attempts by the Attorney General’s staff, no such meeting has been scheduled,” Kobach said.
In December, Kobach sent another letter reached out to four “catchment districts” whose policies he reiterated violated parental rights and asked them a series of questions about the policies. For example, Kobach asked the Shawnee Mission school district, “Any teacher, administrator or otherwise [district] The employee knowingly used the child’s birth name and biological-sex-related pronouns when discussing the child with parents or legal guardians at any time, but used a different name or set of pronouns for the child at school or otherwise than that parent. or a legal guardian?’
The Olathe school district said in a statement Thursday that it does not have a formal policy on how staff should handle a student’s transgender status, and that such a policy has never been approved by the Board of Education. The policy Kobach criticized in the December letter is part of “internal administrative guidelines” for employees to use on a case-by-case basis, the district said.
“As a district, it is always our intention and practice to work directly and partner with individual families and students as situations arise to ensure we provide appropriate and necessary support,” she said. “We trust our staff to put the best interests of families and students at the center of every decision.”
The district added that it first received written information from Kobach on December 11, 2023, and responded to that letter on December 19, 2023.
“Since then, the district has been in regular contact with the Attorney General’s Office to set up a time to meet and discuss any misrepresentations and/or misrepresentations by the Attorney General regarding this matter,” he said. He said he would not be able to meet with a representative of the attorney general’s office on February 2 and offered six additional meeting dates.
The Kansas City, Shawnee Mission and Topeka districts did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
However, in December, Shawnee Mission Unified School District Superintendent Michelle Hubbard responded strongly to Kobach’s letter, criticizing her for not providing actual examples of how parents’ rights have been violated by the district’s policy. He said he relied on “misinformation” from “partisan sources” and said students rarely tried to withhold information from their parents, The Associated Press informed.
“We are not polarizing media caricatures, but real people working hard in the face of intense pressure on public schools,” he said, according to the AP.
Kobach’s letter to districts, for example, refers to Parents Defending Education, a conservative group “trying to take back our schools from activists.”
Kobach also sent a letter to the Kansas School Boards Association in December “based on evidence that KASB may be involved in promoting policies that mislead parents on this issue.” According to him, KASB has refused to comment on whether it is involved in the development of such policies and either confirms or denies that it is involved in the development of these policies.
In an emailed statement to NBC News, KASB executive director Brian Jordan did not directly address Kobach’s statement, but he said Kansas schools “respect and value the rights of well-established parents.”
“Open lines of communication and trust are essential in this partnership,” Jordan said. “Each school district depends on locally elected school board members to set policy and ensure accountability. These people are in the best position to make decisions for their local communities.”
Justin Brace, executive director of Kansas-based Transgender Heartland, said Kobach’s latest statement “marks yet another step toward erasing transgender people in Kansas.”
“This policy would unnecessarily exclude transgender students and parents from questioning or exploring their sexuality before students are ready to talk about it,” Brace said. “We need to stop trying to pass policies that erase trans children from existence, and instead of allowing them to simply exist as children who are learning, growing and being themselves, we need to directly impact their mental health every day.”
There are five states laws forcing transgender youth out schools—Alabama, Iowa, Indiana, North Carolina and North Dakota—and six additional states have laws encouraging such walkouts, though not mandating them, according to the LGBTQ think tank Project to Advance the Movement. Kansas is not among those states. It failed to pass the state Legislature a bill last year it would prohibit school officials from using names or pronouns for a student other than those assigned at birth.
Kobach’s statement is his latest move to target transgender people in the state. In July, he sued Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s administration to ban transgender people updates gender on driver’s licenses, and this trial continues. In response to that lawsuit, the state’s Department of Health and Environment decided in September that it would no longer allow trans-transplants. gender on birth certificates.