gender identity

The first government official to identify as nonbinary—Sam Brinton—is not only making recent headlines for luggage theft claims but also helping schools hide children’s gender identity or sexual orientation from “unaffirming” parents.

Sam Brinton gained attention for being the first senior government official to identify as nonbinary—meaning though a biological male, Brinton does not identify as male or female. Brinton worked in the federal Department of Energy but has since been relieved of the position due to theft allegations.

Prior to working for the Department of Energy, though, Brinton headed advocacy and government affairs for The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ+ youth. During that time, Brinton helped develop a booklet to further the Trevor Project’s mission in the Model School District Policy on Suicide Prevention.

The booklet acknowledged that parents ought to be involved with their children’s health. But, it said counselors need to take into consideration if parent notification is in the best interest of the student, such as if they’re in an “unaffirming” household.

“While parents and guardians need to be informed and actively involved in decisions regarding the student’s welfare, the school mental health professional should ensure that the parents’ actions are in the best interest of the student (e.g., when a student is LGBTQ and living in an unaffirming household),” read the guide under “Parental Notification.”

The booklet continued, “Recent research shows that LGBT youth who are rejected by their parents are at a much higher risk of depression, suicide, illegal drug use, and unprotected sexual practices. Conversely, acceptance and support by family results in higher levels of self-esteem, lower levels of suicidal ideation and self-harm incidents, and better overall physical health.”

The guide went on to say that school staff should not inform parents about their children’s gender identity or sexual orientation without the student’s permission.

“Information about a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity should be treated as confidential and not disclosed to parents, guardians, or third parties without the student’s permission,” it said under the “Special Considerations” section. “In the case of parents who have exhibited rejecting behaviors, great sensitivity needs to be taken in what information is communicated with parents. Additionally, when referring students to out-of-school resources, it is important to connect LGBTQ students with LGBTQ-affirming local health and mental health service providers.” 

Along with The Trevor Project, other organizations involved in creating the “Model School District Policy on Suicide Prevention” were the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the American School Counselor Association, and the National Association of School Psychologists.

State education departments in Arizona and Virginia have implemented the guide’s policies either partially or fully. Additionally, several districts in California, Oregon, and New Hampshire have adopted them.

Nicki Neily, founder and president of Parents Defending Education, weighed in on the issue.

“Parents love their children and want the best for them; we desperately want to be involved in their lives so that we can help our family members thrive, both personally and academically,” Neily told Fox News. “It is unconscionable that a document created by associations, which parents trust — such as the school counselors and school psychologists — would imply otherwise.”

“This is a deliberate attempt to undermine familial relationships, which are very difficult to rebuild once damaged,” she went on.

In the meantime, Senator John Barrasso from Wyoming is demanding that the Department of Energy conduct an investigation into its own security clearance process after hiring Brinton.

Sam Brinton was removed from being a deputy assistant secretary of the Office of Spent Fuel and Waste Disposition for the Department of Energy after theft allegations. Brinton has been accused of stealing two suitcases at airport baggage claims that are estimated to be worth thousands of dollars. Brinton could face up to 10 years in prison.

What do you think of the “Model School District Policy on Suicide Prevention” guide?


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  1. Aleks December 23, 2022 at 2:56 pm - Reply

    My issue is with some assumptions that Nicki Neili had while criticizing the topic: first and foremost no, not all parents love their children and even less love their children unconditionally. To me she sounded like “parents should be aware of all mental illnesses in their children so they can find appropriate treatment”.
    Children know their parents pretty dang well and how they interface; I would have so much sorrow and guilt keeping the genuine me away from my parents so if a child is seriously wanting the parents to not be privy to the knowledge then I have to assume that they have a legitimate reason why. Non binary does not harm one’s health unlike drug use or self harm but negative parental response to it can cause drug use and self harm.

    • nwefblog December 31, 2022 at 12:36 pm - Reply

      Hi Aleks, thanks for your comment. One of our core principles of education here at NWEF is that parents (as long as they have not had their parental rights legally removed due to illegal activity) have the right and the responsibility to be the decision makers for their minor children. It is unethical to hide educational and medical information, including mental health details, from the child’s legal guardian. As long as the parent is the legal guardian, schools have no authority to make the judgment that the child would be better off if the parents aren’t informed. You say “Children know their parents pretty dang well,” and I would argue that the reverse is also typically true. Rather than treating parents like the enemy, schools would do well to stay in their lane and include parents in dealing with minors experiencing gender confusion. One bad parent does not justify excluding a hundred good parents from decisions.

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