By Representative Katrina Smith
Parents are losing the battle in our public schools to be the primary decision maker for their children in life-altering matters. Shockingly, schools across Maine are currently enacting policies that treat a parent as the secondary authority of their child’s emotional and physical well-being by allowing a school counselor, teacher, or administrator to engage in secret counseling, secret actions, and secret conversations with the children of Maine. In policy, we see Parental Rights being diminished under the name of “Gender Equity”. RSU #71 in Belfast recently enacted a policy that stated “In the case of a student who has not yet informed parent(s)/guardian(s), (of a gender change or pronoun/name change) the administrator should first discuss parent/guardian involvement with the student to avoid inadvertently putting the student at risk by contacting their parent(s)/guardian(s)” What risk is it this policy speaks of? Why are the parents seen as an enemy to the child when the parent is the one who has known, loved, and cared for this child since birth? What proof is there that the default should be to not involve the parent instead of defaulting (correctly) to involving the parent in life-altering decisions?Parents’ rights are also being diminished in practice. At the Great Salt Bay School in Damariscotta, a mother recently found a chest binder that a school guidance counselor had given to her 13-year-old daughter without even having a conversation with her mother about it. Even worse, the child was told to keep the chest binder a secret from her mother. It should be noted the school has a specific policy stating no one can ask a child to keep a secret, yet the school has refused to admit wrongdoing. In Winslow, a school administrator, sent an email to the entire faculty informing them of a pronoun change of a child and also asked faculty to keep it a secret from the parents. This email was followed up mere hours later advising them not to do this as it was against current policy, however that policy has now been changed (ACAAA: Transgender and Gender Expansive Students) to reflect that a child should presume a parent could find out, but it does not state parents are initially involved in the discussion within school.Many will say that standing against these policies and practices are about discrimination against the LGBTQ population. I will state plainly the truth for those who allow themselves to hear; A parent is the ultimate authority for a child and MUST be involved in all decisions affecting their child’s emotional, physical, and mental well-being, whether straight or otherwise. A school’s job is to teach our children to read, write and perform mathematical equations, but they do not own, nor should they control, the lives of our children. Parents, it is time to stand up and ensure your school respects your role by asking to see any policy that diminishes your authority in your child’s life and then fighting to expose and change that policy. A parent should not be second to any school employee, school board, or superintendent. I will be introducing legislation that requires parents to be informed of, and approve, any changes to how their child is addressed at school and I welcome any stories you have about the diminishing respect for parents’ rights in our school system. I vow to fight for moms and dads everywhere who are being told they are not allowed to be the gatekeeper for their child and I invite you to join me. The fight to keep parental rights is truly now or never.