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Did Sen. Newman Just Dismiss a Doctor's Warning About Trans Youth Suicide? Social Media Erupts

Sparks flew at a recent Senate Education Committee meeting to discuss AB-1955, the controversial bill that aims to ban California schools from enacting parental notification policies.

If any exchange at a California State Senate Committee meeting were to go viral, one would reasonably assume—at least in today’s divisive political climate—that said exchange was characterized by short tempters and fiery accusations. Instead, Senator Josh Newman reflected an apparent apathy in his back-and-forth with a respected pediatrician. In response to remarks about the alarming rate at which trans-identified youth commit suicide, Sen. Newman (CA SD-29) gave a dismissive, insensitive “Doctor, that's fine. That's fine.”

A video of this interaction, which comes from the May 29, 2024 State Senate Education Committee meeting, is now making the rounds—and it’s not painting the Democrat Senator in a flattering light.

The meeting was held, in part, to hear community input regarding Assembly Bill 1955: the dishonestly named "Support Academic Futures and Educators for Today’s Youth Act." Championed by the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, this bill seeks to ban parental notification policies lawfully adopted by many school boards across California. If passed, it would prohibit schools from enacting policies that require administrators to inform parents if their children are seeking a gender transition, effectively encouraging school employees to keep secrets from parents.

It currently has no bipartisan support but is expected to pass due to the Democrats’ veto-proof supermajority in the State Legislature.

Dr. Arthur de Lorimier, Chief of Pediatric Gastroenterology at the University of California Davis and a clinical professor with over 33 years of experience caring for abused children (including trans-identified youth), testified at the meeting. In his remarks, Dr. de Lorimier stated that young people undergoing gender transition are more likely to commit suicide as adults. According to research done by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, a jaw-dropping 81% of transgender adults in the U.S. have thought about suicide; 42% have attempted it; and 56% have engaged in non-suicidal self-injury.

"So if the parent doesn't know about this—if the parent is totally kept in the dark over what's going on—the kid is at far more risk,” said Dr. de Lormier. “Giving the devil's advocate to the folks who think this is a good idea, the only justification that was ever really brought up… was to prevent suicide and now we see that's not happening. In fact, the people who are going through this transition are more likely to commit suicide as adults. And that's the reason that the Dutch closed these, and the U.K. closed these, and nearly all of Europe has closed this."

"Doctor, that's fine. That's fine," responded Sen. Newman.

"No, that's a huge deal," Dr. de Lormier retorted.

Senator Newman attempted to recover by saying, "I'm saying I appreciate your testimony," but the damage was already done.

The community quickly expressed their disappointment on social media. "Hey @JoshNewmanCA this is not fine in any way, shape, form, or fashion,” wrote Twitter/X user Señia. “Shameful!" 

“Parents have a right to know what their own minor children are doing at school—and school officials have no right to keep secrets from parents. That’s true now, and it will still be true if the state passes this bill,” stated the Liberty Justice Center’s President Jacob Huebert

Others pointed out how the politicization of the classroom explains larger issues within California's public schools—namely, the sharp decline in enrollment (and funding) as parents pull their children out in favor of educational alternatives. Despite “catastrophic issues plaguing California’s schools, state legislators are more focused on advancing culture war politics in K-12 schools," writes California Policy Center’s Andrew Davenport

“Encouraging minors and school employees to keep secrets from parents fosters an environment that is ripe for abuse and distrust,” Davenport continues. "Progressive lawmakers continue to walk in lockstep with California’s teachers’ unions... [who] are more concerned about issues like climate justice than student achievement."

Davenport’s article goes on to cite Konen v. Spreckels Union School District—where the district socially “transitioned” Konen’s 11-year-old daughter to a boy without her mother’s knowledge or consent—and the expensive settlement between Jurupa Unified School District and Jessica Tapia, a teacher who was fired for stating hypothetically that she would refuse to lie to parents about their child changing their gender identity at school.

If AB-1955 passed prior to these incidents, the school districts would have enjoyed legal protections and neither Konen nor Tapia would have seen justice.

And so the debate over parental notification (and the legislation that aims to block it) wages on. Regardless of where one stands in that debate, the conversation should always involve a high degree of sensitivity and an abundance of caution. Whether it was a Freudian slip or merely a terribly regrettable comment, Sen. Newman ought to work on how he talks to concerned parents and voters. 


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