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    Capistrano Unified rejects a parental notification policy
    • October 19, 2023

    Capistrano Unified School District voted against enacting a parental notification policy Wednesday night, the first Orange County school district to outright deny such a proposal.

    As it was written, the Capistrano Unified parental notification policy focused on mental health, saying a designated school counselor would notify a student’s family “when they have reasonable cause to believe that doing so will avert a clear and present danger to the health, safety or welfare” of students.

    But after being asked for clarification by the student board member during the discussion on Wednesday, Oct. 18, Trustee Lisa Davis said that gender identity would also require notification to parents under the umbrella of this policy.

    The board voted 4-2 to reject the policy, with Davis and Judy Bullockus the two yes votes.

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    The policy was first presented by Davis during the board’s September board meeting. Then, Davis said, “This policy brings parents into the conversation regarding some of the most important aspects of a child’s life.”

    The proposed policy was written with verbatim language that was used in the approved parental notification policy at Placentia-Yorba Linda School District.

    Capistrano Unified’s proposed policy said: “Due to the current nationwide mental health crisis exacerbated by the global pandemic, the Capistrano Unified School District recognizes the need for frequent, ongoing and oftentimes immediate communication between school administration, staff, and parents/guardians. Furthermore, with reports of depression, anxiety and suicide rates at an all-time high among public school students, action is needed to address this emerging crisis and support the health and welfare of district students.”

    Andrew Fredriksz, a previous school counselor at Capistrano Unified, said that he is against the policy in a letter sent to Board President Krista Castellanos earlier this week.

    “While parent rights are extremely important and they should always be contacted regarding life-changing decisions regarding their children, reporting to parents how a student identifies does not fall under life-changing decision-making,” said Fredriksz, now a counselor at Laguna Beach Unified. “The risk of outing a student in a household where they will not be accepted and may have a negative impact on their mental health is a greater concern in this discussion.”

    “I have a lot of respect for the board,” said Fredriksz. “They are unfortunately caught in divisive culture politics as are the students.”

    Fredriksz said he does not believe a parental notification policy will be enacted at Laguna Beach Unified.

    “Laguna Beach Unified does a great job of cultivating a community where everyone is heard — families, students and staff,” said Fredriksz. “There seems to be a foundation of respect between everyone which helps promote productive conversations.”

    Orange Unified was the first Orange County school district to adopt the policy in early September, and Placentia Yorba-Linda soon followed suit, becoming the second district to approve the policy last week. Many parental rights activist groups say they will attend Tustin Unified’s next meeting on Nov. 13 to encourage the policy to be addressed there.

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    In districts that have adopted these policies, situations that would warrant parent notification include requests to use different names or pronouns or requests to change sex-segregated programs (like athletic teams or changing facilities) that differ from the student’s “assigned biological sex at birth.”

    The policies also include notification guidelines if a student reports self-harm, suicidal ideation or injury to others.

    Capistrano Unified has 63 campuses, making it the largest district in Orange County. The district includes the cities of San Clemente, Dana Point, San Juan Capistrano, Laguna Niguel, Aliso Viejo, Mission Viejo and Rancho Santa Margarita.

    ​ Orange County Register