Children’s hospital advised school district not to require disclosure of students’ chest-binding to parents

A Missouri school district was advised by experts at St. Louis Children’s Hospital to avoid requiring staff to disclose the chest-binding practices of students to parents.

A student counselor at Parkway Schools in St. Louis County reached out to the Washington University Transgender Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, inquiring about the best way to approach chest-binding when it comes to students’ physical health and safety, according to emails obtained by Parents Defending Education (PDE) through a public records request, which were shared with Fox News Digital.

Chest-binding is the act of compressing or flattening one’s breasts in order to appear more masculine. If worn too tightly or for too long, it can cause restricted breathing, lightheadedness, overheating, fainting or damage to the ribs or spine.

An email from a Parkway Schools counselor on Jan. 20, 2022, asked experts at the Transgender Center, ‘I know our staff wouldn’t necessarily want to tell the parents but were curious if they HAD to if it becomes a health issue?… The only reason we’d want a nurse, PE, or Music teacher to know is because we had a few instances where a student passed out when wearing one that was too tight (when participating in PE activities or singing and out of breath… Just wanted to put that into context…)’

The response from a program manager at the Transgender Center quoted the center’s co-director, Dr. Sarah Garwood, as advising that Parkway, or any school district for that matter, not require staff to disclose students’ chest-binding practices to parents.  

‘I’m attaching a response from Dr. Garwood,’ the email from the program manager read. 

‘I would actually decline any requirements for disclosure by students or from school to parents,’ the email quoted Garwood as saying. ‘I would, however, provide general education to school nurses, teachers, school counselors so that they are aware this may be something they encounter.’

Garwood was quoted as saying that in ‘some circumstances,’ a ‘private conversation between PE teacher and student may be appropriate (Or between student and school counselor). The basic safety facts can also be shared with nurse, counselors, PE teachers (and music/band makes sense too).’

The email suggested that inquiring students be provided a handout on ‘Safer Binding’ by the Transgender Center, which states that binding ‘may help reduce dysphoria, ease body discomfort and help affirm one’s gender.’ The handout includes links to websites to buy binders, as well as a ‘binder sizing’ chart and ‘binder safety tips.’ 

Another email included in the results of PDE’s public records request included a link to a YouTube video of a back-to-school presentation by the Transgender Center, titled, ‘Working with Transgender Students,’ which was shown to Parkway Schools officials in August 2021.  

During the segment of the presentation on ‘privacy and disclosure,’ the program manager said: ‘There is a lot of ethical debate about this, because parents are the parents, they’re in charge. On the other hand, the kids are with all of you 6 to 8 hours a day. I believe that the best practice would be to respect that kid’s gender identity to the best that you can, without informing the parents, throughout the school day as much as you can. Working with the student, and being like, ‘OK, we can’t change your name on all the things because we have to tell your parents. So we can’t do that, but here’s where we can change your name.’’

Calls placed to the St. Louis Children’s Hospital, as directed on the hospital’s ‘media & newsroom’ webpage, were disconnected.

Garwood did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.

‘It sounds too insane to be true, but we know this is happening across the country,’ Alex Nester, PDE investigative fellow, told Fox News Digital.

‘The parent-doctor relationship is absolutely crucial to children’s well-being, but activists are trying to poison it,’ Nester said. ‘Teachers across the country have already tried shutting parents out of the classroom, now they want to shut them out of medical decisions. This is both dangerous and unconscionable, and we must stop it before it goes any further.’ 

Parkway Schools told Fox News Digital that it does not currently have a policy on chest binding and parental disclosure, and that the ‘Safer Binding’ handout was only circulated among staff.

‘The District does not have a policy addressing chest binding and parental notification,’ district spokesman Paul Tandy said. ‘The ‘Safer Binding’ handout was distributed to high school counseling department leaders for informational purposes, but not for distribution to students.’

In response to a follow-up inquiry, Tandy said the school board does not have a policy related to students’ name changes or gender transitions either, but it does follow an internal process ‘that begins with a discussion with the parent or guardian, or, if the student is 18 years old, with the student.’

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