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CHINO, Calif. - State Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurmond was told to leave a school district meeting in Southern California after expressing his opposition to a policy that requires administrators to inform parents if their child identifies as transgender.
Thurmond was escorted out of the meeting held by the Chino Valley Unified School District when he exceeded his allotted one-minute speaking time by a second or two.
He used his time to voice concerns about the policy, stating that it would violate the privacy rights of students.
The policy requires schools to notify parents in writing within three days after their child identifies as transgender, is involved in violence or talks about suicide. Schools must also now notify parents if their child seeks to change their name or pronouns or asks for access to gender-based sports, bathrooms or changing rooms that do not match their assigned gender at birth.
Despite Thurmond's objections, the Chino School Board ultimately voted to approve the policy.
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Thurmond's dramatic exit and the controversial vote come at a time when liberals and conservatives are vying for power – and how to shape young minds – at school districts throughout the state of California.
"They should find a more balanced way to show their respect for private rights that doesn't trample on the safety and the rights of our students," Thurmond said.
Afterward, Thurmond took to Twitter to describe how he felt "verbally attacked" by the school board president, who told police to remove him.
"I don't mind being thrown out of a board meeting by extremists," he wrote. "I can take the heat — it’s part of the job. What I can’t accept is the mistreatment of vulnerable students whose privacy is being taken away."
School Board President Sonja Shaw said she kicked him out because he spoke more than the allotted time. During the meeting, she repeatedly told Thurmond to "sit down!" and it wasn't his meeting.
Shaw added: "We think he is a danger to our students. He continues to push things that pervert children, and he continues to push out parents and bring in policies that create division between families."
The crowd chanted. At least four school security guards came up to the podium. Thurmond exited to both boos and claps. He described being "forcibly removed" from the public meeting.
Others, like Jonathan Zachreson, who is running for a school board seat in Roseville, Calif., also noted that Thurmond wasn't kicked out; he was asked to leave.
"You had one minute like everyone else," Zachreson tweeted.
There were roughly 85 other people in the meeting who also wanted to speak.
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Chino Valley Unified is known for its ultra-conservative school board members who have opposed state laws protecting transgender students rights, EdSource reported.
In 2021, the board attempted to ban transgender students from using restrooms and locker rooms corresponding to their gender identity, but failed after the California Attorney General’s Office warned that the proposal violated state education code and it was prepared to litigate.
And so, the Attorney General weighed in on this, as well, siding with Thurmond.
In a letter to the board, state AG Rob Bonta – a Democrat – warned that the notification policy potentially infringes on students’ privacy rights and educational opportunities. Each student’s right to choose when, how and with whom they share their gender identity must be protected, Bonta said in a news release.
"By allowing for the disclosure of a student’s gender identity without their consent, Chino Valley Unified School District’s suggested Parental Notification policy would strip them of their freedom, violate their autonomy, and potentially put them in a harmful situation," Bonta said. "Our schools should be protecting the rights of all students, especially those who are most vulnerable, and should be safeguarding students’ rights to fully participate in all educational and extracurricular opportunities."
Bonta added that his "office has a substantial interest in protecting the legal rights of children in California schools and protecting such children from trauma and exposure to violence. I will not hesitate to take action as appropriate to vigorously protect students’ civil rights."
This isn't the only battle between conservatives and liberals at the school board level. And in many of the cases, the conservatives are winning.
In a separate action further south, Gov. Gavin Newsom fined the Temecula Valley Unified School District $1.5 million, after its conservative board members rejected state-endorsed textbooks that mention gay rights activist Harvey Milk of San Francisco.
The $1.5 million fine will cover the cost to ship the materials to the district, a fine Newsom warned would follow if board members insisted on withholding their approval.
Following Newsom's remarks, board members on Tuesday held on to their values and struck down the content with a 3-2 majority rejection.