In Loco Parentis

While I’m sure they exist, I can’t imagine a parent who believes that someone else, someone at school, would make better choices for their child than they would. Yet, parents believe that schools should be empowered to make decisions for other people’s children because they will make the decisions for other people’s children that they believe should be made. Not their children, but other people’s children, when the parents might not make the choices they would make for their own.

They, the parents who believe schools should be empowered to make decisions for other people’s children, are fine with this because, to their mind, it’s the right decision. It’s the decision they would have made, which by definition is the right decision. And not just that it’s the right decision, but should the parents of other people’s children not make the decision that they believe is right, it’s beyond question that someone else, the schools for lack of an alternative, should make it. As long as it’s not their child.

Mrs. Bradshaw was confused: Didn’t the school need her permission, or at least need to tell her?

It did not, a counselor later explained, because the student did not want his parents to know. District and state policies instructed the school to respect his wishes.

“There was never any word from anyone to let us know that on paper, and in the classroom, our daughter was our son,” Mrs. Bradshaw said.

Like most people, I’m generally a supporter of teachers. I’m a supporter of education. But there have been a few teachers along the way in my kids’ educational experience whom I wouldn’t trust to wash my car. To be generous, perhaps they knew the subject matter they were charged to teach, though that hasn’t always been the case either.

I remember my son, now post-MIT graduation, being failed by an elementary school teacher in math because he “refused” to show his work on math tests. His math abilities were strong enough that he perceived no “work,” and calculated the correct answers in his head without consciously working through the problems. He just didn’t need to, so she failed him because her rubric required him to not be that strong in math.

We had a chat about it with the teacher, who informed us that she was the teacher so she knew best. Fortunately, the headmaster was less shallow and the teacher was overruled. But it could have gone south quickly if he just knee-jerk backed up his teacher or told us that rules were rules, and these were the rules.

The Bradshaws have been startled to find themselves at odds with the school over their right to know about, and weigh in on, such a major development in their child’s life — a dispute that illustrates how school districts, which have long been a battleground in cultural conflicts over gender and sexuality, are now facing wrenching new tensions over how to accommodate transgender children.

School district have not “long been a battleground in cultural conflicts over gender and sexuality.” They’ve had no role to play in such matters, with the exception of the sex education battles over birth control and abstinence. as such matters have only become battlegrounds very recently as transgender advocates have used their bureaucratic allies to force their agenda into schoolhouse bathrooms. Somebody wrote a book called “It Takes a Village,” which was misunderstood to mean that the village got to take the child away from the parents should the parents not do as they’re told.

But neither all parents, nor all children, fit the simplistic one-size-fits-all solutions that schools or villages impose.

The Bradshaws accepted their teenager’s new gender identity, but not without trepidation, especially after he asked for hormones and surgery to remove his breasts. Doctors had previously diagnosed him as being on the autism spectrum, as well as with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, PTSD and anxiety. He had struggled with loneliness during the pandemic, and, to his parents, seemed not to know exactly who he was yet, because he had repeatedly changed his name and sexual orientation.

The Bradshaws held their child through the joys and sorrows, the happiness and the misery that every child goes through on their way to maturity. Some have problems along the way that call into question their transitory wants and desires. Parents know this because they comforted their child at night when they cried. The Bradshaws’ child had a number of issues, very troubling issues, that they were painfully aware of and which gave them extremely good reason to think through life-altering choices rather than just leap blindly into the abyss.

The Bradshaws loved their child. The school did not. The teachers did not. The principal did not. The Bradshaws would be there for their child when the shit hit the fan, when everything spiraled out of control, when the consequences of life-altering decisions were faced. The school wouldn’t care at all, it’s job done.

Maybe their daughter was transgender and transitioning to their son would prove to be the right path. But who would know? Many will say the child, while the same people will properly acknowledge that the brains of teens remain underdeveloped and impulsive, which is why they should not be prosecuted and sentenced as adults. They’re not adults. They’re not yet mature enough to be held responsible like an adult. Yet they’re mature enough to make a choice that will have life-altering consequences, the decision to mutilate their body and take them down a path from which they may never be able to return?

This is not to say that all parents are good parents. Indeed, many shouldn’t be parents at all. Some are physically abusive. Some are sexually abusive. Some are too narcissistic and immature to show the necessary degree of love, attention and dedication a child needs. But that’s an independent determination, not one for school rules that ride roughshod over all parents lest they make a choice for their child that might not be the one “correct” parents would make for other people’s children. They forget that In loco parentis is Latin, not Spanish.

5 thoughts on “In Loco Parentis

  1. Elpey P.

    This is both beside the point and yet is the rot that underlies it: this is all because our institutions have normalized a fascistic, anti-feminist ideology which is so regressive it believes gender norms are even more foundational than biology. The fraudulent “choice” being made is a religious conversion, enforced externally.

    If not for that framing, this would be a debate over whether or not these student (and others) will liberate themselves from patriarchal norms in their presentation and behavior, or play along with them. It could then be an authentically progressive thing to be trans, because it would mean subverting and expanding expectations for someone of your sex.

    Instead it’s about the most blindly right-wing thing possible in the arena of gender, a complete subjugation of reason and science and humanism to dogma and narcissism and capitalism, and a new normalization of toxic “I’ll fuck you up” death drive masculinity. Or as they call it, being kind.

    It’s the sort of incoherence we would get under theocracy. We shouldn’t be misled by their howling about “far right hatred.” This movement is to feminism and left wing progressivism what Westboro Baptist Church was to Christianity, and they’ve taken over the schools. As with other conditions that disproportionately affect adolescent girls, the damage being done to kids is a manifestation of societal malaise.

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  2. Erik H

    It makes no sense on any front.

    Most places have existing processes for reporting abuse; for emancipation; and for kids to get abortion w/o parental consent–sometimes w/o parental knowledge. If gender is that big a deal, then it would seem perfectly reasonable to allow kids to sue for the right to transition without parental agreement or consent.

    But the insane part is that school districts just… do it. There’s no oversight or appeal. There are no standards of care or analysis at all.

    It makes even less sense when you consider that these same districts usually require explicit parental consent for everything. Sports; field trips; giving an aspirin; dropping out of school… And even against student wishes they will make grades and test info available to parents.

    How can gender transition simultaneously be so important/major that it justifies lying to parents, and yet so unimportant/minor that it allows that lying to happen without the slightest bit of process or oversight?

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  3. B. McLeod

    Well, if we can’t substitute the police for a mental health system, there’s always the schools. I anticipate significant growth in home schooling, although working class households with two working parents are generally going to be stuck with these lunatics raising their children.

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