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    Capistrano Unified to vote on a parental notification policy
    • October 17, 2023

    Capistrano Unified School District will be the next Orange County district to discuss a parental notification policy on Wednesday, Oct. 18.

    Like the policy adopted by Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified earlier this month, the proposal is written to solely focus on mental health concerns and has no mention of gender identity. Parental notification policies recently enacted by other California school districts have included a set of guidelines outlining how school administrators or staff will inform parents that their student may be transgender, such as if they request to use different pronouns or changing rooms that differ from their “assigned biological sex at birth.”

    Capistrano Unified’s proposed policy says “parents/guardians will be notified if a student is exhibiting symptoms of depression, anxiety, a dramatic shift in academic performance, social withdrawal or other significant changes affecting a student’s well-being.”

    Multiple sections of the proposed policy are verbatim to what was enacted by PYLUSD on Oct. 10, with the emphasis placed on mental health concerns. But PYLUSD Superintendent Alex Cherniss said there could be instances when a teacher or school staff member would notify a parent if they became aware that a student desired or began to transition genders, requested to go by a different pronoun or expressed distress because their gender expression does not match their gender identity.

    It’s not yet clear if that is also the intent behind Capistrano Unified’s proposal.

    The policy comes at the request of Trustee Lisa Davis who did not respond to a request for comment. During a September meeting, Davis did not go into details about what would be included in the policy but said, “As educators, we are mandated reporters, so we are already mandated to report on anything that is concerning over the safety of a child.”

    “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,” the proposed policy reads. “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.”

    The proposed policy states that district employees, administrators and certificated staff are to “collaborate with parents in evaluating the needs of students having academic, attendance, social, emotional, or behavioral difficulties and in identifying strategies and programs that may assist such students in maximizing their potential.”

    It specifically instructs district officials to involve a principal or school counselor as soon as they become aware that a student may have suicidal intentions based on their verbalizations or acts of self-harm. In this instance, the principal is to immediately secure medical treatment or mental health services, keep the student under continuous adult supervision until a parent or appropriate support agency is able to intervene and notify law enforcement and other emergency assistance if suicide is actively being threatened.

    Capistrano Unified’s proposal also says officials should notify parents if their child is in possession of a prohibited substance, experiences sexual harassment or is involved in a verbal or physical altercation.

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    In other districts that have adopted these policies, situations that would warrant alerting a parent 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.” Those policies also include notification guidelines if a student reports self-harm, suicidal ideation or injury to others.

    Capistrano Unified would become the latest California school district — and third in Orange County —to enact what’s been dubbed a parental notification policy if adopted on Wednesday.

    Orange Unified was the first Orange County school district to adopt the policy in early September; PYLUSD became the second last week. And many parental rights activist groups say they will attend Tustin Unified’s next meeting to encourage the policy to be addressed there.

    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.

    The Capistrano Unified board is set to meet at 33122 Valle Rd. in San Juan Capistrano at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

    ​ Orange County Register