- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Sen. Tim Scott has introduced a bill that would withhold federal funding from public elementary and middle schools that hide students’ gender transitions from their parents.

The South Carolina Republican introduced the Parental Rights Over the Education and Care of Their Kids (PROTECT) Act on Tuesday in response to a growing trend.

Policy changes at a large number of public schools allow children to use transgender or non-binary pronouns and names on campus while teachers use their birth genders in parental communications.

“Parents across the country have grown rightfully concerned by school policies that push a radical agenda that’s kept secret from parents,” Mr. Scott told Fox News Digital.

The PROTECT Act seeks to “combat indoctrination” by “preventing schools from concealing information about students’ gender from their parents,” according to the legislation’s language.

The issue is part of a broader political debate about transgender rights that is raging ahead of the midterm elections.

President Biden has proposed redefining the word “sex” to include gender identity in Title IX, the law that forbids all sexual discrimination in federally funded schools and education programs.

If his proposal succeeds, it will bar schools from requiring students to use the gender identities and restrooms corresponding to their sex at birth. It also will require public schools to let transgender students play on the teams corresponding to their new gender identity, a subject of growing international controversy.

The push to redefine gender discrimination in schools has sparked policy changes and lawsuits nationwide.

Several states have passed laws requiring students to play on teams corresponding to their birth sex, responding to complaints that students born male have unfair advantages in women’s sports.

In Virginia, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin was elected last November after pledging to address parental outrage over new policies on pronouns, bathrooms and sports teams.

Last week, Mr. Youngkin reversed state guidelines issued by his Democrat predecessor. The new policies from the Virginia Department of Education require teachers to get written permission from parents before treating a child as transgender.

“Parents have the right to make decisions with respect to their children,” the 2022 Model Policies document states.

In other states, individual school districts have gone beyond state guidelines.

Since 2015, Maryland State Department of Education guidelines have said public schools have no legal obligation to disclose the sexuality of a transgender or gender non-conforming student to parents. Those students have the right “to decide when, with whom, and how much private information” to share.

Three Maryland parents sued Montgomery County Public Schools in October 2020, arguing that its new Gender Support Plans went beyond state guidelines by requiring secrecy.

U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm dismissed the lawsuit last month, noting that the policies exclude parents only at the request of students who fear psychological or physical abuse.

According to his ruling, that’s an area of “compelling interest” where Supreme Court precedent allows government intervention.

Mr. Scott’s bill faces an uphill battle if Democrats maintain control of the House and the Senate this fall.

But the head of Parents Defending Education, an advocacy group that supports the PROTECT Act, says gender has become a “major flashpoint for families from coast to coast.”

“Polling consistently shows that when it comes to the topic of gender in schools, parents worry about fairness, safety, and the preservation of parental rights — and that these concerns transcend both racial and political lines,” said Nicole Neily, the group’s president.

• Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@washingtontimes.com.

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