Cassie Schmidt confronted school board members in a North Dakota district that pledged not to “openly out” students despite a newly-passed state law requiring otherwise, but she holds a history of fighting back on behalf of parents.
Though she chose the private school route for her own family, she stood before the Fargo, North Dakota board and spoke on behalf of the “Let Parents Decide That” Facebook group of community members concerned over allegations that the board has concealed – and will continue to conceal – children’s gender identities from their families.
“Whose kids are these? Do they belong to you as a school board? Do they belong to Fargo Public Schools or is each parent’s child ultimately the decision-maker in their family over what is allowed and what is safe for that child…?
“There is no possible way for each teacher to know every kid as intimately as their parents do,” she said at a board meeting last Tuesday.
“Parenting 101: You teach your kids that nobody that asks you to keep a secret is safe,” she continued.
Schmidt told Fox News Digital about her role in advocating for parental rights in her community and how a Facebook group she helped found to push back against mask mandates during the COVID pandemic in 2021 continues to strive for the overall wellbeing of children while offering a voice to parents who feel they have none.
After two years, the group has over two thousand members.
“It [mask mandates] was something at the time that was really hard for parents to talk about. They were really being shamed into silence. Nobody wanted to look like the selfish parent that didn’t want to protect all the other kids in class, even though masks have been proven to do nothing. So we really tried to build a community of concerned parents to just kind of support each other,” she explained.
Schmidt said the group has taken on several key education issues in the two years since its founding, including violence in North Dakota schools and the most recent gender identity concealment issue that garnered media attention in recent days.
“Instead of addressing actual issues that we’re having, they kind of start to take up these social justice flags, and it just gets really frustrating,” she continued.
The most recent issue in the district came after Superintendent Dr. Rupak Gandhi said, “We will not openly out any student because of one law if we know that that’s going to cause harm to that child” at a May 9 meeting, one day after Republican Gov. Doug Burgum signed the state’s HB1522 into law.
HB1522, establishes policy prohibiting districts from taking up pronoun policies and bars the district, boards or teachers from “withhold[ing] or conceal[ing] information about a student’s transgender status from the student’s parent or legal guardian.”
The law also touches on transgender restroom policies and other LGBTQ+ related key issues.
Still, she said reaching out to state officials to challenge the issue is getting parents nowhere since they continue to kick the issue back to the local level.
“I think what’s happening here is this issue is getting really pigeonholed into an LGBTQ plus issue, and I think people aren’t thinking about it kind of how they should be. It’s really a parents’ rights issue because what’s really happening is the schools are getting in between the student and the parents to gate keep information from the parents,” Schmidt said.
“That is really concerning, and it should be concerning for people on both sides of this LGBTQ issue, whether you’re for it or against it. We should be able to come together and understand that the parent makes the decisions for the child and that protecting kids does not mean hiding information from parents.”
Schmidt also alleged the board has a history of ignoring parents by refusing to address anything they say. Noting Dr. Gandhi’s remarks about protecting transgender students, she mentioned his discussion about suicide rates among transgender youth.
“If you think about that, that these issues might lead to an increased risk of suicide for the student, that is something that must be shared with the parents, that are responsible for the child in every situation. They spend nights and weekends with the child, long holidays over the summer. Where are the where are the schools in the summer time?
“We’re setting a really bad precedent again over what who’s allowed to have the information, and the parents, in my opinion, should always be allowed all the information on their child.”
When reached for comment on the issue earlier this week, a representative for Fargo Public Schools stated that Gandhi never explicitly said “the district is keeping students’ gender identities hidden from parents.”
Schmidt argued that the language used to convey the district’s message is intentionally vague.
“Whose kids are these? They don’t belong to the schools, and people don’t like to think about children belonging to anybody, but they belong to the parent. They belong to the family,” she said,
“What the school is doing is they’re placing themselves right in the middle of your family, and they’re deciding what’s okay for you to believe. Because if your beliefs don’t align with their beliefs, then they’re going to protect the student from you. They’re teaching kids that keeping secrets from their parents is safe. That is not safe. It is not safe. That’s not how we protect them.”