Kansas AG accuses state schools of hiding transitioning of students from parents

Parent Rally 1

Some school districts in Kansas are “socially transitioning” students without parental consent, the state attorney general claims, and he’s sent letters to them challenging what he says are “outrageous” policies.

Parents Defending Education (PDE) keeps an updated list of parental exclusion policies on their website that includes six school districts in Kansas. They have “Transgender/Gender Nonconforming Policies” that “openly state that district personnel can or should keep a student’s transgender status hidden from parents,” the advocacy group claims.

While the list is not comprehensive, it includes Belle Plaine USD 357, Kansas City Public Schools, Olathe Public Schools, Shawnee Mission School District and Topeka Public Schools. Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach sent letters to all the school districts challenging their policies that allegedly require or allow school district staff to conceal a student’s “transgender” or “gender non-conforming” status from parents. 

“Parents have a constitutional right to control the upbringing of their children,” Kobach told Fox News Digital. “It’s outrageous that certain school districts would facilitate the sexual transitioning of children by hiding it from their parents.”

He said his first objective is to make parents and school districts aware of the parental exclusion policies, explaining that some school boards may not be aware of the policies. 

“I think there are many well-meaning school board members who would recognize that parents have a right to know about any transitioning or any issues that their kids are facing, and they shouldn’t be excluded from that,” he added. 

Secondly, Kansas AG Kobach said he wants to encourage these schools to change their policies to be more in line with parental rights as protected by the Constitution.  

“There is a constitutional right at stake here,” Kobach told Fox News Digital. “The Supreme Court of the United States for almost a century, has recognized the Constitutional right of parents to control the upbringing of their children and that’s a very important Constitutional right, and we want to make sure that is respected.”

Kansas

A parents’ rights supporter holds up a sign during Chino Valley Unified School District board meeting at Don Lugo High School in Chino.  (Will Lester/MediaNews Group/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin via Getty Images)

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Kobach told the school districts that their policies violate parental rights and asked for clarification about whether parental input was considered prior to adopting the transgender notification policies, according to the press release. Belle Plaine’s superintendent told KSN.com it changed its policies last April, while Maize also said it had changed its policies.

“A lot of times these policies are pushed by outside activist organizations and adopted by school boards without being fully informed about what the policy would actually do,” Deputy Attorney General Abhishek Kambli said. “Belle Plaine and Maize should be praised for responding swiftly when they saw what was going on.”

Kobach also sent a letter to the Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) based on evidence that the statewide organization might be involved in promoting policies that exclude parents regarding their child’s “transgender” or “gender non-conforming” status, but KASB declined to either confirm or deny that it had been involved in drafting such policies, according to the AG’s office. 

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The four other districts, Kansas City Public Schools, Olathe Public Schools, Shawnee Mission School District and Topeka Public Schools, “dug in their heels and essentially asserted that school administrators know better than parents,” the press release stated. Kobach sent a letter quoting the “offending language directly from those schools’ policies,” even though some denied that their policies cut parents out of the picture. 

Olathe Public Schools, specifically, requested a meeting to discuss the issue, which the AG’s office has repeatedly followed up on, but despite repeated attempts by the Attorney General’s staff, no such meeting has been scheduled, according to the AG’s office. 

A counter protester supports transgender children

A counterprotester holds a sign at protests planned across the country against gender ideation being taught in schools.  (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Regarding the claim that a meeting hadn’t been set up, the district said in a press release shared with Fox News Digital that it had received the AG’s letter, which it responded to in December and since then, it has been in “regular contact” with the AG’s office “to schedule a time to meet and discuss any misinterpretations and/or miscommunications that the Attorney General’s office has regarding the matter.”

“Unfortunately, Olathe Public Schools was unable to meet with the representative from the Attorney General’s office as originally scheduled on Feb. 2, 2024,” the statement said. “However, the district offered six additional meeting dates: Feb. 27, Feb. 28, March 5, March 6, March 8 and March 26. The district stands available to meet at any of these times. Olathe Public Schools is obligated to follow federal law to support our students, staff and families.”

The district also addressed the policy, stating it “does not have, nor has it ever had, a formal policy adopted by the Board of Education regarding gender identity and pronoun usage.”

“The document noted in the press release from Attorney General Kris Kobach references internal administrative guidelines to assist our staff and administrative teams as situations arise on a case-by-case basis, not a formal policy,” the statement said. “As a district, it is always our intent and practice to work directly and partner with individual families and students as situations arise to ensure we are providing the appropriate and necessary support. We trust our staff to put the best interests of families and students at the heart of every decision.”

Belle Plaine Schools Superintendent Pete Bastian said in a statement that “nothing matters more” to the district “than doing what’s good for students.”

“That begins with forming a trusting partnership with parents to make sure every student has a safe, supportive place to learn and grow at school,” he said. “At Belle Plaine, we have long embraced the importance of working together with families, and we are proud to be part of a community that makes this possible.”

Dr. Aarion L. Gray, general director of instructional services at Topeka Public Schools, told Fox News Digital that the district believes education is a cooperative effort between the parent, their student and educators.

“USD 501 works collaboratively with parents and their student(s) to protect their legal rights while maintaining a positive learning environment for all,” Gray said. “USD 501 remains confident their regulation and practices comply with current laws as written and interpreted by the courts while protecting the legal rights of both the parents and their student(s).”

The National School Boards Association came under fire in 2021 for comparing the actions of parents at school board meetings to “domestic terrorism.” (Courtesy of Becket)

The district also shared its policy which explained that current practice in the district is for administrators “to evaluate requests for accommodations on a case-by-case basis, and to develop an individual plan for each student.”  

David A. Smithchief communications officer for the Shawnee Mission School District, sent Fox News Digital the response Superintendent Michelle Hubbard sent to AG Kobach after they received his letter.

“Without citing any incident of a SMSD parent allegedly having their legal rights violated, you attack our Board members and our administrative leadership with the statement that ‘USD 512 has apparently surrendered to woke gender ideology,’” the letter to the AG said. “Use of the political ‘woke’ labeling as an insult is disappointing to see from our State’s Attorney General.”

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“Our Board is made up of diverse individuals who were publicly elected by our community,” the statement added. “Our administration is likewise composed of diverse individuals, who have devoted their professional careers to bettering and advancing public education for Kansas children. We are not caricatures from the polarized media, but rather real people who work very hard in the face of intense pressure on public schools to serve our students and our families every day in compliance with applicable law.”

Parent Rally

Kobach challenged this sentiment, stating the policies he and his team identifies are “definitely not consistent with parents’ constitutional rights, so right now they are out of step with the law.” 

“If they are serious about complying with the law, they need to modify their policies,” he added. “They should do so as quickly as possible.”

PDE Vice President Caroline Moore told Fox News Digital that attorneys general around the country should take a play out of Kansas’ playbook. 

“General Kobach used a list of parental exclusion policies originally exposed by PDE to hold districts in the state accountable for removing parents from decision making involving their child’s well-being,” she said. “Parents have become completely demoralized with how their children are being turned against them at the hand of public schools.”

“Turning up the pressure on these administrators to rescind policies gives parents hope for what’s to come in Kansas and elsewhere, when politicians stop playing the blame game and hold districts accountable for unconstitutional policies,” she added. 

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