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APS Board tables controversial parent rights proposal, vows to solicit community input on revision

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 was hearing a proposal on parent rights that GLSEN New Mexico warned could out LGBTQ students to their parents.
Nash Jones
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.

A committee of the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education Thursday night tabled a controversial policy proposal regarding the rights of parents, including access to student counseling records. Several groups, including teacher and LGBTQ student advocates, had called on the community to speak out against the proposal.

About 30 community members showed up in person, many with signs from LGBTQ advocacy group GLSEN New Mexico that read, “We stand with transgender students” and “We stand with LGBTQ+ students.”

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.

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.

Board 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.”

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 Board Member 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.”

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 striking 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.”

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 Gonzales said clarity on what the Board’s next steps would be to revise the proposal and bring it back for a vote was important.

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.

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

Members said the board plans to reintroduce a likely heavily amended policy proposal in November or December based on a timeline recommended by APS Policy Analyst Heather Bassett.

To listen to the committee's full discussion of the proposal, click the LISTEN button below.

The APS Board policy committee's full discussion of the Parent Rights and Responsibilities proposal on 7/7/22

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.
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