Before a proper response can be given regarding the role of government, represented in this case by the public school and their staff, and the most appropriate way to address students who might wish to identify as a gender different than the one assigned based on their chromosomes, one overarching comment bears mentioning. No person can be epitomized by the sum of their gender, sexual identity, or expressions. Every student is an individual soul, and is therefore endowed with immeasurable worth, and deserving of respect, kindness, and justice.
Having said that, there are three different issues presented in the article referenced above, “School board to consider gender pronoun policy, anti-name-calling resolution.” One, a draft policy being considered by the school board demands that all students be called by the name of their choosing, upon request of the parent/guardian of the child. Two, the same draft policy further demands that students be identified by pronouns that reflect their believed, or preferred gender; again, upon parental/guardian request. Finally, the school is debating if a parent/guardian should be notified — or required to approve — of a child’s request to be called and identified by a name and gender different than the one given and determined at birth.
First, I believe a parent should be able to have the request for a name change honored by school employees. While I cannot address all of them, I believe I understand the variety of arguments posed against this conclusion, yet I would simply argue that the government has no authority to determine what I choose to name my child. If I want to name my child Princess Consuela, I’m not going to seek the government’s opinion on this matter, and certainly will not vie for their approval.
On a more serious note, consider a child in foster care whose adoption is pending but not yet finalized. Shouldn’t the parents of that child be able to have a requested name change honored? I fear, if we try to parse this too much, we conclude with a belief that the government, in some instances, has the right to name our children, or provide input into that name — a point on which I stringently object.
However, I believe asking teachers or students to address individuals with pronouns that disagree with their chromosomal designation is an encroachment on individual liberty and the ability to practice one’s faith. For instance, the belief in an inerrant Creator is a fundamental doctrine for Abrahamic religions. To identify a male as female is to deny the inerrancy of the Creator, which is heretical for these belief structures.
One might argue that the child has the right to be identified as they wish, regardless of others’ religious convictions, perhaps suggesting that freedom of religion is best understood as an ability to freely make private confessions and meditations. I believe this to be an erroneous understanding of freedom.
Has not the legacy of abolitionists taught us that an individual's liberty is constrained to the point that it cannot affect the liberty of another? In their case, they argued that the plantation owner should be disallowed from running their business as they see fit, despite the fact that they were the citizens of a free country, because it encroached on the freedom of others.
In this instance, teachers who believe in an inerrant Creator cannot be forced to maximize the freedom of another by restricting their own liberty by way of denying religious expression. One might raise an objection to this premise, fairly seeking to run it to an extreme end by asking: If a religion espouses a view that justifies criminal activity (stealing, murder, etc.) do we all have to respect that as part of life? Of course not.
If the government's primary responsibility is to protect the life, liberty, and property (Amendment 14) of their citizens, any religion that must be practiced by encroaching on these elements must certainly be denied and held accountable through the executive and judicial systems of government.
Lastly, and most briefly, the school should absolutely notify the parents of a student if said student is desiring to be called by another name or pronoun. Why should the government be the primary counselor for a child making a significant life decision, or walking through a period of uncertainty? The hand that rocks the cradle should always be the parent/guardian of a child, and the government is not merited with an opinion of how parents/guardians should address this topic, so long as the child is not being physically harmed.
By even considering if refusing to inform a parent is an option, the school board would suggest that a parent should be informed if a child skips class, or is constantly causing a disruption, but not on activities as consequential as this. Should the parents not also be informed of decisions that are of greater magnitude to the life of the child?
One truth of democracy is that the people get the government they deserve. If we the people choose to allow this governmental philosophy to run its course, we deserve the consequence of such governance — for better or worse. Is the government’s primary responsibility to protect the individual liberty of its citizens, thus empowering each citizen to make the best choices for themselves and their families; or should the government make those decisions on our behalf, as we hope that their wisdom and morality supersedes our own?