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tv   NBC Bay Area We Investigate  NBC  March 23, 2019 6:30pm-7:00pm PDT

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ersonally feel it'd be malpractice to withhold that kind of treatment. announcer: the brightest medical minds are at odds. eric vilain: it's this idea that if i behave like a girl, therefore i am a girl. well, that's not necessarily true. announcer: the growing debate and a mother's fear. female: i would rather have a trans daughter than a dead son. female: get your read books out. announcer: teachers are now seeing an increase in the number of students identifying as transgender. female: every single school. announcer: but are educators prepared? laurie wekaser: i think it's something that we do need to be taught. announcer: our two-year investigation exposes a serious lack of training for educators across the bay area. bigad shaban: your school district wasn't providing training for teachers. ch. male: it did give me pause. you know what? we need to do more. announcer: major reforms now impacting roughly 60,000 students. here's investigative reporter bigad shaban. bigad: the number of school children who openly identify as
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transgender is expected to rise, in part because of new medical guidelines that allow trans kids to begin physically transforming their bodies at younger ages. we spent the past two years collecting data and reviewing policies from the largest school districts across the bay area to find out if educators are now adapting to a changing student body. jack: i'm kind of terrified, but most excited i've been in my entire life. announcer: this 12 year old was born a girl named sophia, but today is taking a major step towards becoming a boy named jack. female: i'm going to be right here. announcer: the sixth grader is about to have a tiny medical device implanted in his left arm. jack's dad and mom are at his side. jack: oh, jeez, i'm really terrified. male: try to just relax. jack, jack, it's just in your head. jack, relax. just relax. female: meredith's going to put some more numbing to make sure that it's all numb, okay? announcer: the implant stops female puberty and will keep jack from growing breasts.
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male: there you go. announcer: it was last year when sophia cut off all her hair and decided she was really a he. bigad: what would you say to people who think kids are just too young to make this kind of decision? jack: sure, i'm a kid, but doesn't take a genius to realize that i'm not a girl. announcer: an estimated 1.4 million adults in the us identify as trans, 150,000 teens, but figures for younger children are largely unknown. here in the bay area, there are at least six clinics for trans kids that currently treat more than 550 children. some kids started therapy at three years old to transition socially, which means changing their names and wardrobes to match the gender they choose. as young as three? steve: as young as three. announcer: pediatrician steve rosenthal has treated hundreds of trans kids as the head of the gender center at ucsf children's hospital. steve: we watch these kids sort of reappear,
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almost be reborn with a body that matches their gender identity. announcer: clinical guidelines for how to treat trans kids haven't been updated in roughly a decade, but rosenthal and an international team of doctors have released a new medical framework that for the first time favors early social transitions and allows hormone therapy for kids under 16. bigad: this could impact children worldwide. steve: yes. i personally feel it would be malpractice to withhold that kind of treatment. announcer: major institutions and medical groups helped write the guidelines, including columbia university, uc san francisco, and the american association of clinical endocrinologists. our investigative unit was briefed on the new guidelines months ahead of their release. jack: i don't feel like being a girl is who i am. announcer: before jack started his transition, he says he couldn't even stand his own reflection. bigad: when you look in this mirror now, what do you see? jack: me. i see me.
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juliana: i used to have a girl, now i have a boy. announcer: juliana is jack's mother. bigad: what do you see when you look at old photos of jack? juliana: that's hard, yeah. and i think that that is a little--that's i think the hardest part for me. bigad: as his mom, do you have doubts? juliana: i do, i do. but i can only do what i know right now is the right thing to do. announcer: still, juliana and even leading doctors worry the medicine that blocks puberty can also weaken bones and might cause other unknown side effects. eric: i think it's putting a lot on the shoulders of these children. announcer: pediatrician eric vilain heads the center for genetic medicine research in washington dc, and is the former chief of medical genetics at ucla. bigad: you think far more children are transitioning now than maybe should? eric: that's correct. children say a lot of things.
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it's this idea that if i behave like a girl, therefore i am a girl. well, that's not necessarily true. bigad: is telling a child to wait to transition sort of the modern day version of telling a gay person that it's just a phase? eric: i don't think so. people are telling me that these boys who behave like girls are in fact girls inside, so i'm saying, "well, where is the girl? is their brain different? are their genes different?" i still have not seen that. announcer: while scientists and doctors continue to battle over the issue, schools and educators have been left on the frontlines often with little or no training on how to navigate what some view as dangerous territory. over the past two years, our investigative unit has been collecting and analyzing data from the 20 largest school districts across all nine counties of the bay area. we discovered more than 105,000 students last year
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attended schools that failed to educate teachers on transgender issues. in reviewing school policies for those 20 districts, we learned a complete lack of training extended across five school districts. only livermore agreed to an interview. chris van schaack: it's new to us, and i will be the first one to say that this is an area in which i'm not an expert. announcer: chris van schaack is deputy superintendent. he says teachers can rely on administrators who are trained each year to support trans students throughout the district. chris: gender biases and pronoun usage and things like that, those are things that we need to--we need to become more comfortable with. bigad: should that be taken as a sign that the district is in need of more education? chris: yeah, i mean, i wouldn't-- if you asked me that question about anything, is the district in need of more training on anything, i would say yes. you might consider in the future? i t. s's sething chris: absolutely, yeah. male: there you go. announcer: back at the hospital, jack's life is abouto cki didn'.
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female: exactly. announcer: soon after, jack does start to feel something. jack: i'm really, really happy. announcer: the effects of the implant are largely reversible, but for now jack is saying goodbye to sophia. female: bye bye, bye bye estrogen. bye, there it goes. oh, bye bye. bye estrogen. announcer: coming up, meet maya. what does it mean to be happy with who you are? maya: it means being me. announcer: plus, educating the educators. chris: we can't ignore a group of students who need our help.
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maya: i just really am more of a water person. it's fun and it's powerful. it can bring life, it can destroy. it's my island. megan eber trainor: she is a happy, energetic, life is all good kind of girl. maya: this is mainly earth and water. megan: will she find love in her life, will she have relationships? you know, i think i probably think that of all my children,
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not being accepted as a transgender person. bigad: how would you describe yourself? maya: as a girl. bigad: have you ever felt like a boy? maya: no. well, not that i can remember. announcer: eight-year-old maya was born brody but began identifying as a girl at just four. bigad: and how does being a girl make you feel? maya: normal. how does it feel to be a boy? bigad: it just feels normal to you. maya: mm-hmm. announcer: megan eber trainor is maya's mother. bigad: when was the first time your son told you that he was really a she? megan: so, i was tucking maya into bed and she said, "mommy, why did god make me a boy when i'm really a girl?" and no parent is prepared for that.
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i was like, "oh no, where is my husband? what do i say?" bigad: she was just four when she said this? megan: yeah, yeah, yeah. i mean, when a child does not align with their, you know, genitals, you know, you just-- i don't have that experience. bigad: did part of you ever think, "maybe maya is just confused"? megan: starting at the age of three, she was always in dresses, and we didn't know being transgender was an option. i didn't even know the word existed. but it started to explain what we had been seeing for a year and a half. so, was it a phase? no, because all of a sudden we were getting clarity about what we had been seeing. announcer: the medical community still largely believes should transition and when. withbiour study? kristina: we hope so. announcer: dr. kristina olson is overseeing first of its kind research. she's studying 300 trans kids from around the country and tracking them for 20 years.
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it was here at her seattle clinic nearly two years ago where we first met maya. kristina: do you feel like you're a little bit a boy? maya: a small bit in between. kristina: okay. bigad: what do you hope to learn from all this? kristina: information that parents and teachers and pediatricians can use to make informed decisions about what's in the best interest of young transgender and gender nonconforming kids. announcer: other studies have shown trans people are nearly ten times more likely to commit suicide. but olson says three years into her study, she's found kids who were allowed to transition socially aren't any more depressed than non-trans kids. kristina: these kids are rethis social transition.ellee announcer: while maya used to be brody, she legally changed her name at just seven years old. bigad: who is brody? bigad: doesn't exist anymore? who's maya? maya: me.
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nope, wrong way. girls, wrong way, i'm facing this way. you're just supposed to go-- announcer: today, maya appears just as confident. bigad: what's changed since then? maya: let's see. i know more. what else is there? i'm taller. bigad: you're taller. maya: i have bangs now. they're kind of annoying. bigad: do you still feel happy with who you are? maya: yeah. bigad: what does it mean to be happy with who you are? maya: it means being me. female: bumping into maya. announcer: but maya's mother realize the journey ahead will be difficult. megan: our next big thing will be puberty. bigad: does maya understand what puberty will mean for her? megan: yeah, she does. to her, it's daddy's height, it's daddy's hairy face, it's daddy's hairy body. bigad: that all scares her. megan: yes, oh yeah, she wants nothing to do with it.
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so, i think she lives at peace right now knowing that there is a solution to that. maya: i get two. announcer: maya has already told her family she wants to receive a medical implant that stops puberty by blocking hormones. bigad: what would these blockers do? what are you hoping to do? maya: be a girl forever. mama, does it hurt to get the blocker put in? megan: i believe they numb it, so no. but you have--there's a little poke for the needle to numb, just a little poke. and then they implant it, and that part doesn't hurt because you're numb already. maya: so, i can't feel? megan: mm-mm. mm-mm. but we'll hold your hand and we'll move through it. maya: okay. megan: okay? announcer: coming up, how one student managed to push ahead of the pack. female: teachers didn't have any training on how to deal with trans people. announcer: we'll show you the new lesson plan
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designed for teachers. male: i know i'm going to say the wrong thing. anyone ever have that experience?
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i was on the fence about changing from a manual to an electric toothbrush. but my hygienist said going electric could lead to way cleaner teeth. she said, get the one inspired by dentists, with a round brush head. go pro with oral-b. oral-b's gentle rounded brush head removes more plaque along the gum line. for cleaner teeth and healthier gums. and unlike sonicare, oral-b is the first electric toothbrush brand accepted by the ada for its effectiveness and safety. what an amazing clean! i'll only use an oral-b! oral-b. brush like a pro. and difficult journeys, but running was one way to fit in. cal: cross-country was one of the only sports that the girls and the boys practiced at the same time and it was the same season. announcer: cal is transgender and identifies as a mix of male and female, but didn't know how to tell friends or teachers in high school.
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bigad: you felt alone. cal: yeah, i felt alone, i felt scared, i felt i was in a really dark place. i would just cut myself under the desk because as weird as it sounds, cutting gave me a sense of control. bigad: what made it so challenging? cal: a lot of times, teachers didn't know how to treat me respectfully. like, "oh, man, are you going to, you know, change your genitals?" that's not something you ask a high schooler. bigad: so, as a student, you felt like you had to educate your educators? cal: there was no training. teachers didn't have any training on how to deal with trans people. when you don't really have anyone at school respecting and reassuring a really basic part of who you are, it's horrible. announcer: our ongoing investigation reveals a wideeg
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on transgender issues. we've learned some schools only offer online videos, while others hold large scale seminars. and depending where you're teaching in the bay area, the training can be mandatory, voluntary, or non-existent. in fact, at cupertino union and vacaville unified, training was only offered last year if a transgender student was known to be enrolled in school. critics say that's problematic since not all trans students publicly identify as transgender. joel baum: by giving kids the language and by giving educators the language to understand thfor our trans kids,s but it also creates better conditions for every kid. announcer: joel baum has traveled the country over the past decade teaching close to 30,000 educators about gender. joel: i know i'm going to say the wrong thing. anyone ever have that experience? announcer: he's a former teacher in the bay area and lead instructor with the group gender spectrum. joel: you would think that the only young people that have
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gender are trans, and apparently they spend a lot of time going to the bathroom, like that's apparently what we want to talk about a lot. announcer: his sessions shed light on an evolving issue. female: gender identity biological sex gender-- announcer: from vocabulary female: mtf, ftm, mtm ftf, transgender versus transgendered, agender, trigender, two spirit, non-binary, and probably much more. announcer: to stereotypes. joel: which color is the boy color? announcer: the teacher training here at fremont unified is a first for the district, and it's in part thanks to cal, who spent high school advocating for it. cal: i was bullied in elementary school, from the time i was very, very young. bigad: what's at stake here? announcer: dr. kim wallace is the district's superintendent and started the new training. bigad: is there a danger on just staying silent on the issue? kim wallace: i think there's always a danger in staying silent. i really do stand by my belief that we are an educational institution, and what we're doing is we're educating people about an issue that hasn't really been talked about.
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announcer: even as cal packs for college, the 18 year old is still trying to unpack the emotional baggage of high school. cal says educators need to stop running away and join others in moving forward with more training. cal: all it really takes is a couple of people in your life to say, "we got you," to not feel so alone. announcer: still ahead. female: i want to know what you're thinking. announcer: one teacher's takeaway and the lesson she wants all educators to learn. laurie: i think it's something that we do need to be taught. announcer: plus, our investigation leads to major reforms. bigad: it had an impact for you and your team? male: yeah, yeah, and it was one of those things where it's just we need to think about this.
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announcer: laurie wekaser has behigh school english.here. female: really paying attention to our writing. announcer: for 26 years. female: i think this is a really important topic. announcer: but today she's the student. female: gender is separate from sexual orientation. female: there were some things in that training that i didn't even know. announcer: wekaser's one of about 1100 teachers this year at the east side union high school district in san jose who, for the first time, will undergo mandatory training on gender issues. female: and we're going to talk a little bit about lgbtq language and some of the things that you may be learning or hearing in your classrooms. bigad: have you had students who identify as trans? laurie: yeah, i have a student right now,
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as a matter of fact. i was the first adult ever that this particular child shared that they feel transgender. that's not the first time that's happened to me. announcer: school social workers are leading these trainings throughout the district. female: i always support kids in their journey, but we don't know if it's safe for them to be out. and so we never want to make that assumption. announcer: the training tackles real life scenarios. female: we to this day still have youth who are upfront with us and say, "hey, like i just switched schools because i'm trans and i was getting bullied at my other school." announcer: teachers also learned that some trans students prefer plural pronouns like they or them, rather than he or she. female: this is tricky, and i know english teachers are probably cringing. chris funk: all we're trying to do is create an environment where all kids are welcomed, that's it. announcer: superintendent chris funk implemented the new training. last year, our investigation revealed his district, east side union, was among the largest in the bay area that failed to offer
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any gender training to educators. bigad: your school district wasn't providing training for teachers? chris: that's correct. bigad: why the change? chris: you know, we're just getting caught up in times. we were slow to respond, and when there's society norms that need to be challenged, i think education is the place to challenge. announcer: this year, we again surveyed schools across the bay area at the 20 largest school districts. we discovered only four districts require training for all of their teachers. that's just 20%, and even when it is offered, we learned training varies widely. annual courses for educators range from just 19 minutes to 16 hours. and remember, our reporting uncovered that last year five of the areas largest school districts, home to more than 105,000 students, didn't offer teachers any gender training at all. but after our initial investigation aired, at least three school districts have changed their policies to begin training teachers.
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the reforms are now impacting nearly 60,000 students at 61 schools. chris: lots of communities and lots of districts who have the i don't want to see it. and we are not that community and we are not that district. announcer: chris van schaack is assistant superintendent at the livermore district. when we spoke last year, his schools were not providing teachers with gender training. but now his district is offering new online education to its 650 teachers. bigad: why the change? chris: you know, honestly, the conversation you and i had last year, which is like it did give me pause. you know what? we need to do more. there certainly are students at every school in our district who identify themselves as transgender. tony thurman: education, supporting students. announcer: following our investigation, california assemblyman tony thurman proposed legislation that would require annual gender training for all middle and high school teachers throughout the state. tony: a bill of this kind has never been implemented before.
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bigad: but what about parents who think these aren't the kinds of conversations that should be going on in a classroom to begin with? tony: well, with all due respect, whether or not we know it, these conversations are taking place all the time. there's nothing about this bill that in any way should infringe upon parental rights. all it does is it acknowledges that sometimes things come up in the school environment, and we had to have a way to address it for the safety of our children. announcer: thurman is now leaving his seat at the state house to become california's most influential person ying in part, "if localnew schools find that more training or resources on this topic is needed, they have the flexibility to use their resources as they see best." chris: you know, i think that's dangerous. bigad: dangerous? chris: yeah, we need to be aware of the challenges of all students. and if this is a challenge that some of our students face, even a small subset of those students, we need to be aware
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of and we need to be responsive to that. announcer: laurie wekaser says it's a crucial lesson worth learning. bigad: what's at stake here? laurie: well, everything, their life is at stake. we're seeing more and more kids be comfortable with coming into the classroom and saying, "this is who i am. this is who i want to be. this is how i want you to see me." and teachers need to know how to react to that. announcer: which brings us back to jack. it's been nearly two years since a medical implant began pausing his puberty. female: it went really well. it's in there, and you know what? it's working right now. announcer: doctors recommend kids get off puberty blockers by the time they turn 14, which means jack will soon have to decide whether to start taking testosterone to blend in as a boy, or get off the drugs to restart puberty as a girl. jack: why would i ever want to go back into that shell? 'cause i know deep down inside i am a boy. and i know i won't change my mind, because being a boy
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is the best thing that's ever happened to me. like why would i ever want to be a girl again? 'cause i know that's not me. bigad: our investigation doesn't end here. we have a lot more interviews and an interactiveld tool you can use to find out information about schools in your neighborhood. there you can easily learn which districts offer teacher training and which aren't providing any education at all. that's at nbcbayarea.com/investigations. and from all of us here at the investigative unit, thanks for watching. we invite you right back here every night, where we investigate.
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