California attorney general legal alert: Stop trying to out trans students

Sonja Shaw Chino Valley School District Trans Students

Sonja Shaw is president of the Chino Valley Unified School District board of education. She supports a policy passed by the board in July that requires school officials to out trans students to their parents. Late last year, a judge in San Bernardino blocked the policy from being enforced. On Thursday, California Attorney General Rob Bonta warned warned in a legal memo to every school district and charter school board and superintendent in the state that district should not force staff to out trans students to their parents. Photo: Chino Valley Unified School District board meeting screenshot.

California school districts should not force staff to out transgender students to their parents, Attorney General Rob Bonta warned in a legal memo sent Thursday to every school district and charter school board and superintendent in the state.

“The Office of the California Attorney General issues this legal alert to remind all school boards that forced gender identity disclosure policies — which target transgender and gender nonconforming students by mandating that school personnel disclose a student’s gender identity or gender nonconformity to a parent or guardian without the student’s express consent — violate state law,” the memo said.

A legal alert is an advisory of sorts, clarifying the law as the attorney general interprets it. The timing of the memo coincides with numerous school districts passing (Chino Valley, Murrieta, Temecula, Orange, etc.) outing policies and policies requiring parents to be notified if a student uses a bathroom or plays a sport that doesn’t correspond with the sex listed on their birth certificate.

These policies demand parental notification, regardless of whether it would put the student in danger or risk their safety.

Chino Valley school district’s anti-trans policy blocked by judge

Bonta’s office has taken legal action against one school district with an outing policy — Chino Valley Unified. The judge issued a preliminary injunction in the case, which prevents the district from enacting the notification policy while the case makes its way through the legal process.

Bonta’s alert cited three ways that forced outing policies violate state law and students’ rights in the the Equal Protection Clause of the California Constitution.

  • “Because gender identity is an aspect of gender, transgender or gender nonconforming individuals constitute a protected class under California’s equal protection clause,” according to the memo.
  • The alert also said that the parental notification policy violates statutory prohibitions on discrimination based on gender, gender expression and gender identity. “Forced outing policies target one group, and “that group alone” for discriminatory treatment, which violates state anti-discrimination law,” the memo read.
  • The memo said that the policy violates California students’ constitutional right to privacy with regard to how and when they disclose their gender identity. “In sum, by singling out transgender and gender nonconforming students for different, adverse treatment that puts them at risk of harm, forced disclosure policies violate their constitutional right to equal protection and privacy, as well as their statutory protection from discrimination under California law,” the memo said.

In a statement accompanying the memo, Bonta said these school district policies “endanger the psychological and emotional well-being of transgender and gender-nonconforming students” and “have no place in our classrooms.”

  • Transgender and gender-nonconforming adolescents are more likely to experience abuse than their peers: 73% reported psychological abuse, 39% reported physical abuse, and 19% reported sexual abuse, according to a 2021 study published in the medical journal Pediatrics
  • Less than 40% of trans and nonbinary youths view their home as a safe and affirming place, according to a 2022 survey from The Trevor Project

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.

Share This

Share this post with your friends!