A Parent’s Guide:

Is Gender Ideology Part of Your Child's Academic Experience?

Gender ideology, a topic of discussion

You might have seen it in the headlines, on TV, or maybe even in your child’s school: discussions about people’s preferred pronouns, 2nd graders being taught to ponder their “gender identity,” and school districts encouraging children to change their genders without telling parents anything about it.


What is Gender Ideology?

These trends have their roots in gender ideology, a theory rooted in the idea that gender is a choice—not biology we are born with—and it’s a concept that may be shaping what your child is learning in school or even how your child’s health and wellbeing is being affected, whether you know it or not.

Across the country, activist educators think they know better than parents. Even the New York Times recently admitted that schools are encouraging student gender transitions “without parental consent,” and that “parents of all political persuasions have found themselves unsettled by what schools know and don’t reveal.” The good news is, the law is on your side, and you have the power to find out whether your children are being taught gender ideology.


Parents Have Rights

While public schools have a duty to provide a safe learning environment for all students, this should not infringe on parents’ rights to direct the education and healthcare of their children. As a parent, you have a fundamental right to make decisions regarding your child’s healthcare and education – and no public school should ever be able to undermine or disregard those rights. 

But in more recent years, activist teachers, evolving ideas and social norms surrounding gender have presented challenges regarding education in schools. A deliberate lack of transparency relating to policies, curriculum, and resources related to gender ideology has presented significant issues for concerned parents. In fact, some schools have gone as far as facilitating and hiding students’ gender transitions from their own parents.


Amber Lavigne’s Story

Maine mom Amber Lavigne

Maine mom Amber Lavigne was shocked by what she found in her 13-year-old daughter’s belongings: a chest binder—an undergarment used to flatten breasts. And she was just as stunned to find out that a school worker in her daughter’s public school gave her daughter the chest binder, had secretly been advising the girl about gender transitioning, and that it was all being done in secret.

“This is unacceptable: a school employee secretly encouraged my daughter to change her gender and hide it from me,” Amber says. “The school never stopped trying to keep me in the dark at every turn, repeatedly stonewalling me when I tried to find out what was going on. My parental rights aren’t up for debate: I deserve to know what’s happening to my child in school.”

Amber contacted school officials, only for administrators to defend the counselor’s actions. In fact, school personnel had already been referring to Amber’s daughter with a different name and different pronouns, effectively “socially transitioning” her in secret.

Now Amber is demanding answers from the school — and that the school respect her constitutional rights as a parent. The Supreme Court has consistently held that parents have a fundamental right to control and direct the education, upbringing, and healthcare decisions of their children. Amber turned to the Goldwater Institute to defend those rights. 

Amber is demanding that the school board investigate the counselor’s actions and are calling on the school to adopt a policy requiring it—at a minimum—to inform parents of any decision that affects their children’s mental health or physical wellbeing. This includes attempts to “socially transition” children or provide them with chest binders.

You, too, have the power to find out what policy your public school has when it comes to protecting your child’s mental health and physical wellbeing.


Your Constitutional Rights as a Parent

The Supreme Court has consistently held that parents have a fundamental right to control and direct the education, upbringing, and healthcare decisions of their children. The Court has upheld this right against bans on teaching certain languages, bans on private schools, and compulsory attendance laws—and it’s even held that parents have an absolute right to restrict visitation from their child’s grandparents. In other words, parental rights are broad and tolerate only those intrusions that are completely necessary to protect the health and safety of children, like laws against child labor.

Public school secrecy goes beyond gender transitions, too. In states like Rhode Island and Texas, Goldwater is helping concerned parents get the answers they deserve after school districts charged them thousands of dollars in public records fees to find out what’s going on in their kids’ schools.

Whether it’s matters of health or questions about their children’s curriculum, public school districts should never hide things from parents. That’s why the Goldwater Institute is fighting to empower moms and dads to make decisions that best meet their children’s needs.


Questions to Ask Your School

You’re entitled to get truthful, transparent information from public schools related to the wellbeing and education of your child. If you want to be informed about curriculum and activities related to gender ideology, you can ask a variety of questions to keep you in the loop like: 

  • What is the policy—written or otherwise—on communicating with parents about a student’s expressed desire to be known by a different name or referred to with pronouns not typically associated with their biological sex?
  • How does the school incorporate discussions about gender identity and expression into the curriculum? At what grade level are these topics introduced? Are they mandatory? 
  • Are there opportunities for parent involvement or input in the development of policies, programs, or curriculum related to gender diversity and inclusivity? 
  • What is the policy on communicating with parents about a student’s expressed desire to transition? 
  • Are there any clubs or extracurricular activities related to gender ideology and what are the requirements for parental consent? 
  • How does the school ensure transparency and communication with parents about its approach to gender ideology and related topics? 
  • What is the approval process for the supplemental learning materials available to students? Who is involved in that approval process?

You have the right to maintain an active role in your child’s education – public schools are obligated to respect these rights and provide answers to your questions. 


Take Action
How to Request Answers

In many cases, teachers and school administrators will be more than willing to respond to parents’ questions and provide information about what’s being taught in the classroom. There are times, though, when schools refuse a parent’s reasonable requests. The good news is, the law protects your right to get answers through the public records request process.

How To Request Public Records


Contact the Goldwater Institute.