I understand that it is in most parents' best wishes to protect their children, however in regards to identity, communication should happen between parents and their children. Schools shouldn’t interfere with a students right to their own individuality and potentially harm a family. That’s why I believe the policy should be more nuanced to regard abusive home environments, different age groups, and different levels of care required
My experience with this issue comes firsthand as a nonbinary student who utilized school resources to overcome my own mental health crisis that came with the uncertainty in my own identity. Before I informed my parents I needed my own time to process my emotions and figure out what I was going to say to them. Informing them was tough, but I’m in a much better situation now because I told them at my own pace and was able to have healthy conversations with them about identity. Had the school violated my trust and went behind my back to inform my parents before I was ready my family would have fallen apart. My goal is to protect other students and families who are in a similar situation as I was by ensuring they have access to proper mental health resources.
Consequently, I believe the state has made some crucial errors in their new policy. Firstly, the state must recognize that as a child grows, they gain a sense of identity and independence beyond that of their parents. A 17-year-olds understanding of their identity is vastly different from that of a 7-year-olds. A baseline policy regarding all ages of students as the same shows a clear lack of regard for developmental differences. Secondly, the state disregards American Psychological Association(APA) confidentiality standards. The APA ethics guidelines in section 4.07 clearly state that “Psychologists do not disclose…identifiable information concerning their clients/patients, students, research participants, organizational clients, or other recipients of their services''. School psychologists deal with some of the most mentally vulnerable youth and should therefore be held to professional grade standards. The Commonwealth of Virginia is also contradicting documentation by the APA. According to the Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People under Guideline 8, while best practice for children pre-adolescence currently needs more research, for adolescents and adults gender affirmation is solidly agreed upon as the approach with the most positive outcomes. Additionally under Guideline 5 of the same documentation, school psychologists(and other school officials) should promote a space of inclusivity, to reduce harassment of students based on gender identity or sexual orientation. The commonwealth ignoring decades of research and professional opinions can only serve to harm students.
A sense of changing identity comes with potential mental health stressors. A student should choose the approach they wish to seek help. This includes access to school psychologists who follow APA guidelines on patient ethics, and allowing students to talk to parents in a way they feel comfortable. Parents will be able to establish better communication with their child through a system like this which will keep family ties strong and healthy. This is the first of many steps to reach a nuanced middle ground so our schools remain safe learning spaces, and I encourage our government to have productive discourse with its citizens of varying viewpoints. The draft model policy fails to be a nuanced order, meaning the new policy has more potential to alienate families from each other and harm students' mental health.