A first-grade student was reportedly sent to the principal's office for misgendering a transgender student on the playground at a charter school in Rocklin, California. The incident follows controversy surrounding how school officials handled the transgender student's coming out to her peers.
On Aug. 23, executive director Karen England of the conservative Capitol Resource Institute alleged that a first-grade girl was reprimanded by school officials for referring to a transgender girl as a boy at Rocklin Academy Gateway, The Washington Times reports.
"There was a little girl who had been in class with the little boy all last year," England said. "They're in different classes now, but she saw him on the playground yesterday and called him by his name. The little girl was told: 'You can't do that, his name is this name,' and: 'You need to call him a her.' Then she was called to the principal's office."
England added that the student's parents were outraged by the incident and were set to discuss it with school officials that day.
Policy director Chris Plante of the Family Policy Institute of Washington blasted the alleged incident, asserting that it was unfair to chastise a child for not understanding the complexity of gender identity.
"Imagine how difficult it is for that first-grader to try to understand that the person that she knew as a boy all last year is suddenly a girl," Plante said. "And to hold her to account for that, to send her to the principal's office because she honestly doesn't understand what this means? It's mind-boggling."
Rocklin Academy officials have not confirmed whether the incident took place.
On June 7, the transgender girl came out to her fellow kindergarten students during the end of the Rocklin school year. Her teacher read the class two children's books about gender identity before the student announced herself as transgender. Several parents were upset that they were not given prior notice of what would happen in that class.
"These parents feel betrayed by the school district that they were not notified," England said.
Under California state law, schools officials do not have to give prior notice to parents about book materials unless they are related to sexual education. Gender identity does not fall under the legal criteria for sexual education.
On Aug. 21, Rocklin staff held a board meeting to address the controversy. Several parents voiced outrage that the teacher would teach their children about transgender issues without consulting them first.
"My daughter came home crying and shaking so afraid she could turn into a boy," one parent said, according to CBS Sacramento.
Another parent stated that they wanted their daughter "to hear from me as a parent what her gender identity means to her and our family, not from a book that may be controversial."
Meanwhile, some parents voiced approval for how the Rocklin teacher handled the transgender student's coming out.
"This turned out to be a fairly decent way of introducing a topic that I wouldn't otherwise know to do," Ankur Dhawan told KTXL.
Dhawan added: "One of the lessons my daughter was able to learn was that there's fundamental intelligence, dignity and character to every human regardless of what else might be going on."
Legislative manager Jo Michael of Equality California asserted that it is important to introduce young students to the concept of gender identity so that they can learn to accept their transgender peers.
"Most people have a sense of their gender identity at age 3 or 4 ... It's important to note that the other students really do need to have that opportunity to engage and hear from the transgender student," Michael said.
Clinical psychiatrist Swati Rao of UC Davis Children's Hospital also asserted that introducing children to the existence of transgender people would not harm them psychologically.
"There is actually no evidence to show that being exposed to these issues early on makes children any more likely to become LGBT," Rao told The Sacramento Bee. "Hiding information about LGBT folks doesn't make kids any less likely to figure out they are LGBT in the future."