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California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #18-83
December 12, 2018
Contact: Jonathan Mendick
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Superintendent Torlakson, Washington and Oregon Education Officials Oppose Federal Changes Redefining the Concept of Gender

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson  partnered with the top education officials from Oregon and Washington to send a letter opposing federal attempts to redefine the concept of sex and gender government-wide, making that definition purely biological. The joint letter was sent to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today in coordination with Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill and Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal.

“This damaging proposal would seriously harm our nation’s children and eliminate the ability for some people to fight back against discrimination,” said Torlakson, who was a high school science teacher and coach. “Policies and facilities that assume individuals fall strictly within two categories and assume that identity is visually identifiable risk excluding and alienating individuals. This policy would allow discrimination against those whose gender identity does not line up with their biological sex.”

“Washington state law explicitly prohibits discrimination based on a student’s gender expression or identity in our public schools,” said Chris Reykdal, Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction. “To our students who are transgender: We hear you. We see you. We support you. We will protect you.”

“It is our responsibility to create caring school environments that are safe and welcoming for all students,” said Colt Gill, Oregon Department of Education Director. “Denying a person’s gender identity or forcing conformity to this federal rule change is disrespectful, discriminatory, and harmful. Each of our children deserve more. They deserve schools that accept, respect, and serve them well.”

The assumption underlying California policy is that gender is a spectrum that is not necessarily linked to biological sex. State legislation allows all individuals, including students, to self-certify to their chosen gender category of male, female, or nonbinary—starting on January 1, 2019. While biological sex is defined by chromosomes in most cases, gender and gender identity are much more complex concepts.

“At an age when self-identity is still being formed, telling a student that their identity is invalid because it does not pair with two specific chromosomes can be deeply damaging,” the letter states. “When coming to school feels uncomfortable or even unsafe, students are implicitly prevented from receiving the same education as their gender-conforming peers. Such policies can thus create lifelong emotional, psychological, and economic harm.”

Resources for LGBTQ youth are available on the CDE’s Statewide & National Sexual Health Resources web page. Copies of the letter are available upon request.

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Tom Torlakson — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

Last Reviewed: Monday, January 4, 2021
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