A ten-year old girl in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, began talking with her school counselor about wanting to be a boy. The counselor, her teacher, the principal and other staff at Northwest Expedition Academy (NExA), the girl’s K-5 elementary school, supported and encouraged the child’s desire to “transition,” without telling her family.
The Coeur d’Alene Press spoke with the girl’s grandmother, who said, “This has been going on, nobody even told us. Nobody called us, nobody talked to us.”
Camerena continued, “Instead of saying, ‘You’re 10, let’s not make lifelong decisions,’ instead of offering her any other thing, ‘You’re 10, go play on the soccer field, you’re a kid,’ [the counselor] and the teacher both said they support her.”
The girl finally talked with her mother and grandmother last November, shortly after turning 11-years old, reported MassResistance, a pro-family activist organization. Camerena had called the group for assistance. The group explained that the young girl’s father “was tragically killed three years ago while serving in the US Army in Afghanistan.”
The girl told her grandmother, “My counselor gave me tips on how to tell you. She said we can practice on how to tell your parents. Maybe you can bring them in here and we can both tell them. If they say this, I can say that. Hopefully the parents will think it’s good.”
As an example of how she was coached, the girl said, “My mother’s religious. If she says ‘it’s a sin,’ then I can say, ‘Well, you sin every day.’”
Earlier in the school year, the grandmother “had talked to the elementary school counselor about her concerns that her granddaughter had said she’d been ‘looking at things online’ and seemed to be going through a phase of thinking she would like to be a boy,” the organization reported.
Megan Franklin, the school counselor, said nothing at that time about how she and NExA staff were supporting and encouraging the child in her belief that she was really a boy.
According to the Coeur d’Alene Press:
Idaho Code recognizes the need for school counselors to address diverse and complicated issues faced by students and their families (I.C. 33-1212). Other than disclosures regarding concerns of self-harm, Idaho Code does not require that a school counselor report the content of communications back to parents, but there are additional disclosure obligations regarding concerns of abuse and/or neglect.
At the same time, the paper also reported that “it is district practice to have school counselors work together with parents/legal guardians on counseling needs and goals of each student and encourage students to make disclosures directly to their parents.”
MassResistance held a “Stop the Child Abuse” rally protesting the school’s actions, on Monday, January 11. In response, The Coeur d’Alene School District released a statement:
The Coeur d’Alene School District is aware of growing commentary, largely perpetuated by an out-of-state group, surrounding a student/family matter involving one of our elementary school counselors. Student privacy laws prevent us from discussing the specific allegations but the District can confirm that these allegations are absolutely misleading and incomplete.
The District recognizes and supports the rights of parents and legal guardians to make decisions with respect to their child’s educational experience. These rights exist on balance with the school district’s responsibility to support and protect students.
Our counselors provide critical support services for students and their families and face a wide variety of diverse and complicated issues. These services are guided by state and federal laws, professional standards, and district policy, all for the purpose of promoting children’s academic and social and emotional success.
We are unwavering in this support of students and their families, and we are committed to making every effort to partner with families in balancing these efforts and respecting parents/guardians’ rights.”
The Coeur d’Alene School Board also said it would “review current practices at an upcoming board meeting.”
MassResistance reported that “the mother has decided that she will remove the girl from the public school and put her in a private Christian school,” and the organization is “working with a member of the Idaho Legislature on introducing a bill in the upcoming session to counter the promotion and acceptance of LGBT behaviors in the schools, in addition to banning counselors from withholding information from parents.”
Related resources and articles:
Our friends at Family Policy Alliance Idaho alerted their constituents about the events and have provided a way for concerned constituents to contact the school board: “Alert: School Counselor Encourages Elementary Student to Transition.”
Focus on the Family partnered with The Family Policy Alliance to create a comprehensive, free education resource for parents, Back to School – for Parents. In a section called, “Protecting Your Child in School Health Rooms, Clinics, and Counseling Offices,” parents – and grandparents – can find guidance about parental rights and ways to protect and advocate for children.