This article originally appeared on EdSource, and is republished with permission.
A state Judge in San Bernardino County ruled Thursday that a school district cannot require teachers to notify parents when a student identifies as transgender, saying the policy discriminates against youths based on their gender identity, The San Francisco Chronicle and other news outlets reported.
Superior Court Judge Michael Sachs said that the Chino Valley Unified School District’s policy “treats otherwise similar students differently based on their sex or gender identity” and therefore violates the students’ constitutional guarantee of equal protection.
Sachs granted Attorney General Rob Bonta’s request for a preliminary injunction against the policy, which another judge also blocked last month.
Sachs noted that the district claimed the policy aimed to create a supportive environment for students and their parents was undermined by statements its board members made at a contentious July 20 meeting where they passed the policy. Some board members likened transgender identification to mental illness, called it a “death culture,” and said the policy was needed to fight the purported Marxist goal of abolishing the family.
Board members “on the one hand” claimed the policy aimed “to bring the family, the school, and the students together so that the students and parents have an avenue to address the mental health concerns and other concerns regarding their children,” Sachs said, according to Courthouse News Service. “On the other hand, are board members at an open meeting voicing their opinions that seem to counter the stated purpose of the policy.”
Some transgender youths can discuss their gender identity with their parents, some cannot, and “my job as a judge is to have their backs,” Sachs said, the Chronicle reported. He also said the policy might limit some students’ ability to express themselves and force them to remain closeted.
Emily Rae, a lawyer representing the school district, said parents are entitled to know when their child goes through the emotional and social challenges of transitioning. If the child faces abuse at home, according to Rae, California has other laws to keep them safe, according to Courthouse News Service.
The legal battle over the policy of Chino Valley Unified and the other districts is far from over. The Chino Valley case will return to court in February when trial proceedings are expected to start.
Two federal judges – one in Sacramento and the other in San Diego – have issued vastly differing opinions on the issue.
U.S. District Judge John Mendez of Sacramento in July rejected a conservative group’s lawsuit against the Chico Unified School District, ruling that the state has a legitimate interest in protecting transgender students from “adverse hostile actions, including, but not limited to, domestic abuse and bullying.”
In that case a mother had sued the district for not informing her that her child was identifying as transgender at school.
In September, U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez of San Diego said the state and a local school district were violating “a parent’s right to make decisions concerning the care, custody, control and medical care of their children” by refusing to notify parents of a child’s change in gender identity without the youth’s consent. That case was brought by teachers in the Escondido Union School District. They argued that a policy blocking them from disclosing to parents if a student identifies as transgender violated their religious beliefs.
Both federal cases have been appealed to the San Francisco-based Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.