(The Federalist)—In an attempt to shift public opinion against the Chino Valley Unified School District, which is currently embroiled in a fight with California Attorney General Rob Bonta over its new parental notification policy, The New York Times published an article smearing the fight to protect parents’ rights.
The CVUSD policy, which passed in July but is partially tied up in courts, requires school staff to notify parents if their child shows symptoms of gender dysphoria including switching to the pronouns, bathrooms, or sports teams of the opposite sex.
The rule was designed to recognize parents, not the state or school districts, as having the final say over their children’s well-being. The NYT’s Jill Cowan, however, painted it as a partisan ploy hatched by conservatives like freshman California assemblyman Bill Essayli.
“The Latest Target for California Conservatives? Local School Boards,” the article headline reads.
Cowan claimed Golden State Republican lawmakers foiled by the assembly’s Democrat supermajority fed their ideas into communities like Chino Valley because those residents have a better chance at unseating leftists on the local level than at the state level.
In reality, parents in CVUSD have fought for years to fend off the ideological takeover of their children’s schools. Their cause was helped significantly in recent years by conservative politicians’ willingness to latch onto the national pro-parent movement sweeping the nation.
Cowan, however, insinuated that the parents and pro-parent politicians touting policies that will protect children in districts all across California are meddling where they don’t belong.
“Some parents insist that they have a right to know everything about their child’s school experience, from the materials being studied to the bathroom being used,” Cowan wrote. “They have been joined by political activists and, in many instances, Mr. Essayli.”
Polling suggests that an overwhelming majority of California voters, 84 percent, not just “some,” support parental notification policies that would tell parents when a “major change in a child’s physical, mental, or emotional health or academic performance” is observed.
Despite these poll numbers, NYT, with help from the testimony of opposition group leaders, suggested that the concerned CVUSD parents were the ones provoking the district’s latest controversy.
“To Ms. Hirst, the fight over the notification policy has needlessly drawn the Chino Valley district into another culture war,” Cowan wrote, referring to Kristi Hirst, who co-founded the leftist activist group Our Schools USA with Christina Gagnier around the same time parents in the district voted Gagnier off of the school board.
Cowan incorporated Hirst’s accusation that parents’ “only focus is their political and religious issues” into her writing, ominously noting that several proponents of the parental notification policy have “close ties to a local megachurch” and a new school board member “runs a local Bible study group.”
Another 82 percent of California voters disagreed with the statement “A person loses their parental rights when a child enters public school.” Yet, elevating the concocted plight of “students’ civil rights” above the constitutionally protected rights of parents is exactly what Bonta and Gov. Gavin Newsom have advocated for since CVUSD passed the policy.
California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond also came out of the woodwork to publicly oppose the parental notification policy at a July 20, 2023 CVUSD school board meeting. It was there that he was scolded by the new school board president for trying to exceed the 1-minute limit on those who signed up to give feedback.
Cowan claimed, “Mr. Thurmond could not respond before he was escorted out by a scrum of security guards.”
Liberty Justice Center, which represents CVUSD, told The Federalist that Thurmond was granted special privileges at the board meeting including a front-row seat, permission to be the first speaker during the public comment session, and a separate room at the board meeting so he could voice his opinions to the media, all of which he took advantage of the night of the meeting.
LJC requested NYT issue a correction but emails obtained by The Federalist show Cowan denying the demand.
“We stand by our characterization of the exchange and won’t be changing it,” she wrote.
In addition to shirking calls for a correction, Cowan also refused to include any portions of her half-hour interview with LJC’s Senior Counsel Emily Rae.
Instead, the outlet quoted University of California, Berkeley Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, who Cowan claimed believes “asking to be treated as a different gender doesn’t directly involve physical safety, while sharing that information without a child’s consent could put the child at risk.”
“I think on the legal merits, a child’s privacy interests seem to be much more compelling than the parents’ right to know,” Chemerinsky said. NYT did not dispute his claim.