Chino Valley school district sued over anti-trans policy

A little over a month after the Chino Valley school board passed a polarizing policy requiring teachers to tell parents if their child identifies as transgender, the California attorney general has sued the district, saying the policy violates students’ civil rights.

Attorney General Rob Bonta announced the lawsuit at a press conference Monday.

Attorney general pushes back

Bonta filed a complaint against the Chino Valley Unified School District in San Bernardino County over its new policy requiring parental notification when students change their gender identity at school. The complaint, filed in San Bernardino County Superior Court, seeks a temporary restraining order against enforcement of the policy, which Bonta called the “forced outing” of transgender and gender nonconforming students, while the court determines whether it violates state law.

Bonta says the Chino Valley school district policy violates the Equal Protection Clause and right to privacy of the California Constitution as well as the state’s education code that protects students against discrimination.

“The forced outing policy wrongfully endangers the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of non-conforming students who lack an accepting environment in the classroom and at home,” Bonta said.

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The controversial “parental notification” policy was approved by the Chino Valley Unified School District board on July 20 in a 4-1 vote. Andrew Cruz, Jonathan Monroe, James Na, and Sonja Shaw (the board’s four ultra conservative members) voted “yes,” while Donald Bridge voted “no.”

It followed on the heels of the anti-gay school board banning the Pride flag in June. In updating its flag policy, the Chino Valley school district said only U.S., state, and certain military flags can be displayed at schools and on district property.

The lawsuit

In the lawsuit, the state argues that the Chino Valley school district board adopted the policy to “create and harbor animosity, discrimination, and prejudice towards transgender and gender-nonconforming students, without any compelling reason to do so, as evidenced by statements made during the Board’s hearing.”

In a statement, the Chino Valley school district said it “is working with its legal counsel to review the lawsuit and its contents.”

Policy adopted from failed state bill AB 1314

The Chino Valley school district policy, which mirrors AB 1314 that was introduced earlier this year and died in committee, requires schools to notify parents in writing within three days after their child identifies as transgender, is involved in violence or talks about suicide.

Under the policy, schools will notify parents if their child wants to change their name or pronouns or asks for access to gender-based sports, bathrooms or changing rooms that do not match their assigned gender at birth.

LA LGBT Center applauds lawsuit

The Los Angeles LGBT Center applauded Bonta’s lawsuit.

“For months now, the far-right attack on school boards, education, and books has come to LA’s  doorstep,” Terra Russell-Slavin, chief impact officer, said in a statement. “What started with the outrageously bigoted ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill in Florida has morphed into a monstrous barrage of attacks on our schools, students, and educators — everywhere from Chino Valley to Temecula, North Hollywood to Glendale.

“This is a gross imposition of religion on the public school system, and a violation of California’s existing laws that protect marginalized people in public institutions,” Russell-Slavin said.

“So-called ‘parents’ rights groups’ seek to instate pseudo-fascist policies that actually endanger young people—despite their being notified of the statistics that show LGBTQ+ youth are more at risk for suicide, depression, bullying, and harassment in schools,” Russell-Slavin said.

“Their message to our  young people is clear: they want us to be afraid, to hide ourselves, and to put us in harm’s way.”

More anti-trans policies

The state’s lawsuit comes as other evangelical-influenced school districts, such as Temecula and Murrieta Valley.

Orange Unified School District is the latest school board considering an anti-trans policy.

The board is expected to vote on the policy Sept. 7.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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