APS Board vows to solicit input on revision of controversial parents’ rights proposal

LGBTQ advocates speak out against the plan, saying it could out students

By: - July 11, 2022 4:14 am

Community members hold up signs that read, “we stand with transgender students” and “we stand with LGBTQ+ students” at the policy committee meeting of the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education on Thursday, July 8, 2022. The committee heard and tabled a proposal on parent rights that GLSEN New Mexico warned could out LGBTQ students to their parents. (Photo by Nash Jones / KUNM News)

A controversial policy that would have underscored parents’ rights to all student records — including counseling records — was tabled by a committee of the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education.

Several groups, including teacher advocates and LGBTQ student advocates, called on the community to speak out against the proposal

About 30 people showed up in person to the school board meeting Thursday night, many with signs from LGBTQ advocacy group GLSEN New Mexico that read, “we stand with transgender students” and “we stand with LGBTQ+ students.” 

Meeting live-tweet thread

The Parent Rights and Responsibilities policy proposal stated parents have the right “to have access to all educational records of a school district concerning their child,” including counseling records, Individualized Education Plans and social support plans. In their call to action ahead of the meeting, GLSEN New Mexico said disclosure of these documents could potentially out LGBTQ+ students.

Member Courtney Jackson — who said she was one of the lead authors of the proposal and that she received hundreds of emails about it — spoke first, defending its purpose as misunderstood.

“This policy is not intended to out students, to create fear, to betray trust or to hinder communication with counselors,” she said. “It is intended to foster and improve communication with our parents, their children and the schools.”

Public comment isn’t accepted at APS board committee meetings, so as the proposal was taken up, the audience gave their input through the multicolored signs that stayed aloft throughout the hour-long discussion. 

Board member Crystal Tapia-Romero said she thought the critical community feedback on disclosing student counseling records and social support plans to parents was misguided, saying schools should include “the whole family” of a student in hard conversations “about certain topics” related to a student’s “thoughts and feelings.” 

She went on to compare the situation of schools outing LGBTQ students to their families to when she became pregnant at a young age and was afraid to tell her father, but is glad she did. 

“I couldn’t imagine — now, looking back — if I had been told not to have that hard conversation with my parents because they might not have been accepting or approved of what I had done,” she said. 

Neither community advocates nor APS board members suggested that LGBTQ students should be told not to come out to their parents, but rather that they should be allowed to do so on their own terms. 

District 4’s Barbara Peterson said students should not be forced to disclose their identity to their parents. She said it is with support of confidential advocates at school that a student can feel able to approach their parents when they’re ready to repair their relationship.

“I don’t know of a single counselor who doesn’t have that as a goal,” said Petersen. 

But to out a student — without that being the fundamental part of the relationship coming from the student — is absolutely destructive.”

– Barbara Peterson, APS Board, D4

Petersen, along with several other members throughout the discussion, acknowledged that they believed those who developed the proposal had good intentions. “But I think it’s hugely problematic,” she added.

Co-author Jackson proposed several amendments to the proposal, including striking the list of educational records parents can see, leaving only a reference to the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) as a guide for what parents can have access to. All board members agreed, including President Yolanda Montoya-Cordova. 

“I think striking all of that piece is important because I think it was misleading,” she said. 

Another proposed amendment included deleting the entirety of a section entitled “parent responsibilities,” which included directives that parents should “work with their child at home in learning activities,” “have high expectations for their child,” “remain involved with their child” and “be role models.” 

Several board members, including Josefina Domínguez, thought the list had a negative tone. 

“There’s an assumption behind that,” she said of the list. “And the assumption is that it doesn’t happen.” 

She added it lacked regard for social and economic barriers parents may face in accomplishing some of the “responsibilities.” 

“We have parents who are homeless,” she said.

I want this document to reflect understanding, compassion, respect for our very diverse families and communities.

– Josefina Domínguez, APS Board, D6

Domínguez said she had 22 total amendments to propose but would be willing to discuss them with co-author Jackson directly rather than laying them all out at the meeting. 

President Montoya-Cordova was the first to suggest tabling the proposal. During their comments, Petersen and board member Peggy Muller-Aragón also suggested not putting the proposal as it stands to a vote. 

The panel voted 6-1 to table the proposal with only Jackson in opposition. 

Committee Chair Danielle Gonzeles said there should be clarity on what the board’s next steps would be to revise the proposal and bring it back for a vote. 

Members discussed an intention to work with APS Superintendent Scott Elder to develop a plan for revision, which could include ad hoc committees or listening sessions to gather parent and student input. Petersen added that another key group should be included. 

“It’s really also important for educators to be a part of that,” she said. “If we do it one-sided, we are going to completely miss the boat.”

Members said the board plans to reintroduce what will likely be a heavily amended policy proposal in November or December based on a timeline recommended by a district policy analyst.

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Nash Jones, KUNM News
Nash Jones, KUNM News

Nash Jones (they/them) grew up in Albuquerque and returned home in 2017 after 11 years away living in Portland, OR, and Oakland, CA. Storytelling and community education have consistently been at the core of Nash’s varied career and are, in part, what brought them to KUNM, first as a volunteer host with Spoken Word Hour and NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday, then as a staff member in the KUNM newsroom, hosting Morning Edition (2018-2021) and reporting. Nash currently hosts NPR's All Things Considered and continues to report for KUNM.

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