The question of whether school employees should inform parents and legal guardians when a student requests to transition gender or pronouns has roiled several Maine school systems over the past year. This conversation has only added to the broader debate over parents’ rights to know what’s happening in Maine schools.
Some parents have opposed so-called “gender identity” policies that allow or require school officials to conceal from parents information about a student’s mental health, including potential signs of gender dysphoria or gender confusion. On the other hand, school officials and liberal activists have said protecting the safety of students means schools must withhold certain information from parents if a child asks.
To learn more about where Mainers stand on this issue, the Maine Wire conducted a public opinion survey in partnership with Co/Efficient of nearly 2,000 likely Maine voters.
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The poll shows that 71 percent of Maine likely voters say schools should not be allowed to withhold information about student gender and pronoun changes from parents.
Asked, “Should public school employees be able to withhold information from parents or legal guardians about their child’s decision to change genders or use different pro-nouns?” 86 percent of conservatives and 68 percent of moderates said no.
50 percent of self-identified liberals said public school employees should be allowed to withhold this information from parents.
In terms of party registration, 81 percent of Republicans, 58 percent of Democrats, and 77 percent of unaffiliated general election voters said schools should not keep information about gender transitions secret from parents.
The poll results shed new light on a debate that has involved school boards across the state for well over a year.
In the Oxford Hills School District, two school board members were recalled by Paris voters after they lobbied for a policy that would have required school employees to keep gender transitions secret from parents.
The Great Salt Bay Community School in Damariscotta has been embroiled since last December in a controversy surrounding a social worker’s decision to provide a 13-year-old girl with a breast binder without telling her parents. Other employees at the school also participated in the social gender transition for the young girl, but the girl’s mother was left completely in the dark.
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A similar situation unfolded in the Winslow school as well. Emails obtained by the Maine Wire showed that a school counselor emailed a list of more than 80 school employees to inform them that a student had requested a name and pronoun change. However, in her email, the school counselor said no one at the school was supposed to tell the parents what was happening with their child.
At the center of all of these debates over parental rights and gender identity programming are well-funded left-wing activists and attorneys from law firms like Drummond Woodsum. In the Damariscotta and Oxford Hills school systems, Drummond Woodsum has worked with left-wing school board members to write and defend the districts’ gender identity policies. And documents obtained by the Maine Wire show how the firm has coached Maine school boards on how to limit parental input when dealing with these controversial topics.
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Rep. Katrina Smith (R-Palermo) has introduced a bill that would require parental approval before school employees begin social transitioning the gender of a student, LD 678, “An Act to Require Parental Approval for Public School Employees to Use a Name or Pronoun Other than a Child’s Given Name or Pronoun Corresponding to the Gender on the Child’s Birth Certificate.”
That bill hasn’t been reported out of committee yet, but it’s expected to become one of the more controversial topics the legislature tackles this session.
The Maine Wire / co/efficient poll was conducted from Feb. 28 to March 1 and included 1,982 likely general election voters. The survey methodology used mobile text-based responses and landline interviews. Results were weighted according to age, gender, education level, and party registration. The poll carries a margin of error of +/- 3.09%.