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California parents oust school board members who enacted anti-LGBTQ+ policy

Orange Unified School District California Graduation Students Celebrate
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Two members of the Orange Unified School District board have been removed by parents who opposed a policy requiring school staff to out transgender kids.

Parents in Southern California have voted to remove two conservative school board members after they spearheaded a policy that forcibly outs transgender students to their guardians.

Members of the Orange Unified School District board voted 4-0 to enact the policy in September. It was passed at 11:30 p.m., after the three opposed members walked out and withheld their votes.

The policy states that parents must be notified when a student seeks “to be identified as a gender other than the student’s biological sex or gender listed on the student’s birth certificate or any other official records.” This includes names, nicknames, and pronouns, and applies even if the student hasn’t taken action but has discussed the matter with a counselor.

Board President Rick Ledesma said there was a moral obligation to establish the policy, as otherwise students could “be told to keep a secret, and because supposedly it comes down from the state.”

Now Ledesma and another member who led the effort to enact the policy, Madison Miner, have been removed from their seats in a recall vote. Both lost their elections last week by a margin of approximately seven percentage points, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Darshan Smaaladen, a local parent who led the recall effort, told the outlet that the community specifically aimed to demonstrate their opposition to anti-LGBTQ+ policies with their votes.

“We did this recall knowing everyone was watching,” he said. “These school board takeovers are part of a national trend. ... But for us it wasn’t about politics. It was about taking politics and personal agendas out of the school board and making students the first priority.”

At the initial meeting in September, the board was overwhelmed by crowds who showed up to either protest or support the policy. However, the majority of the attendees voicing support did not have children in the district's schools, and most were not residents of the area, according to the Times.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta has since challenged the forced outing policy in court, alongside other anti-LGBTQ+ rules from the district. One such measure banned flying flags outside schools other than the United States or California flag, which has largely been used to restrict the Pride flag.

The OUSD board will now decide whether to hold a special election to fill the vacant seats or wait until the November general. Kris Erickson, one of members who walked out during the September vote, added that "the past 14 months have been extremely challenging and chaotic" due to the manufactured culture war, but that the board is looking to get back to work on the issues that will actually benefit families in the district.

“Rather than engaging in civil and thorough policy discussions about issues that profoundly affect our students, families and district, it has been a year of dramatic gestures and political theater," he said. "It has been disappointing and frustrating to see our OUSD parents and teachers be demonized, ridiculed and, ultimately, ignored. I look forward to improving transparency, civility and fiscal responsibility.”

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Ryan Adamczeski

Ryan is a staff writer at The Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel "Someone Else's Stars," and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.
Ryan is a staff writer at The Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel "Someone Else's Stars," and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.