Twin Falls School District worked with Idaho School Boards Association on “Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation” policy; ISBA employee appeared displeased with state guidance on transgender issues


The Twin Falls School District in Idaho has a policy in place for students titled “Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation.” The district has the policy filed as number 3281. The policy was adopted on October 12, 2015. The policy mandates that district staff and teachers keep the gender identity of students a secret from parents. Parents Defending Education submitted a public records request to the school district and received emails with employees from the Idaho School Boards Association (ISBA).

In one email dated June 30, 2020, the district’s “public relations director” asks staff from the ISBA whether the district’s gender policy is okay with Idaho law. The ISBA’s “Policy & Government Affairs Director” appears to respond in a sarcastic manner showing displeasure regarding guidance from the Idaho High School Activities Association (IHSAA). The ISBA member states:

IHSAA’s guidance Ugh We haven’t updated our guidance on because the State Board has not conducted its negotiated rulemaking yet. I asked [redacted] for a copy of what they sent over because we did not receive it. Since our policy treats transgender people as, well, people I’m guessing we’ll have to tweak it The dispute process which will be done in rule – is going to be a big part of this.

The school district’s public relations director then responds:

You are the best! Thank you for your speedy response! Honestly, while there are a lot of policies here, they aren’t as challenging as you made them out to be, especially when districts have awesome folks like you to check with on the few items of complexities! I really appreciate all of your work on these updates and my endless questions. You all are doing an incredible job keeping the school districts in Idaho on the right track.

PDE has redacted the names of district and ISBA staff from the following document.

The district also provided PDE with a letter previously written by then-Superintendent Wiley Dobbs and then-Board Chairman Bernie Jansen. In the letter, they explained that they worked with the ISBA to approve the gender policy:

The Twin Falls School District works closely with attorneys from the Idaho School Boards Association when adding or revising school district policies. Earlier this school year, the ISBA recommended school districts adopt a non-discrimination policy, and provided a model. In October 2015, the TFSD Board of Trustees approved two policies entitled “Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation” and “Equal Education, Nondiscrimination, and Sex Equity.”

The school district’s policy appears to use the ISBA’s template similar to other districts in Idaho. The policy explicitly states that the gender identity of students should be kept a secret from parents. Employees who tell parents about the gender identity of their children can face “possible termination.” The policy states:

School employees should not disclose a student’s transgender status or sexual orientation to other individuals, regardless of setting, including the other school personnel or (in the case of middle school, junior high school, and high school students) the student’s parents/guardians, unless they have a legitimate need to know or unless the student has authorized such disclosure. Action in violation of such student confidentiality may subject an employee to discipline, up to and including possible termination and for certificated personnel, a report to the Professional Standards Commission.