California judge halts school district’s ‘outing’ policy for trans students | Courthouse News Service
Thursday, November 30, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Thursday, November 30, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

California judge halts school district’s ‘outing’ policy for trans students

The judge granted the state's request for a temporary restraining order, pausing the policy until a more detailed hearing next month.

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (CN) — A California judge temporarily halted a recent policy by the Chino Valley Unified School District that required the schools to notify a student's parents when the student requests to be identified and treated as a gender other than their biological sex.

California Superior Court Judge Thomas Garza issued a temporary restraining order from the bench Wednesday that prevents the school district from implementing the policy until a more detailed hearing next month.

"I don't know what the purpose of this policy is," Garza said at Wednesday's hearing. He noted the possible harm the students may face at home, as well as comments some of district's board members made at a July 20 meeting where they adopted the policy, which likened transgender identification to mental illness.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta last week sued the Southern California school district over the rule, saying it requires schools to "out" vulnerable students as trans and violates state law.

“Let’s call this policy what it is,” Bonta said in announcing the lawsuit: “It is a forced outing policy.”

Under the rule, implemented after a July 20 school board vote, parents and guardians will be notified if their child is involved in violence; shows suicidal ideation; or asks people to identify them by something other than the sex they were assigned at birth.

Lawyers representing the school district argued Wednesday that parents need to be involved in with their children's transitioning, and there wasn't a blanket right to privacy for all students, given that the district's students range in age from children to young adults.

In addition, Tony DeMarco, one of the district's lawyers, said the parental notification requirement is triggered only when the student takes overt action, like asking to change their name or requesting to join a different athletic team.

"The state is saying the parents [don't] have the right to know," DeMarco said, "while the entire campus will need to know that the student is transitioning."

According to the state, the policy discriminates against transgender and gender nonconforming students, and violates their civil rights. The policy singles out students who use names or pronouns that differ from what’s on their birth certificates, a violation of the state’s equal protection clause, and runs afoul of anti-discrimination protections and privacy rights.

In response, Chino Valley Unified School District Board president Sonja Shaw said last week she wasn’t surprised at the “aggressive stance” that California was taking against people fighting to be involved in their children’s lives.

Attorney General Bonta counts Chino Valley among a handful of school districts that has adopted such policies. He said Anderson, Temecula and Murrieta Valley school districts each implemented copycat mandatory gender identity disclosure policies.

“San Bernardino Superior Court’s decision to issue a temporary restraining order rightfully upholds the state rights of our LGBTQ+ student community and protects kids from harm by immediately halting the board’s forced outing policy,” Bonta said in a statement Wednesday. 

“While this fight is far from over, today’s ruling takes a significant step towards ensuring the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of transgender and gender-nonconforming students.”

Andi Johnston, a spokesperson for the school district said that, while staff respects the temporary ruling to suspend implementation of certain portions of the parent notification policy, personnel will continue "to fulfill its purpose of creating and maintaining a collaborative relationship between school and home."

"Today’s ruling will not deter district or school site personnel from focusing on offering our young scholars a superior educational experience while fostering a nurturing environment where robust student achievement is accomplished," Johnston said. "The district will continue to encourage parents, guardians, and all community partners to remain united in assisting and supporting our youth."

Follow @edpettersson
Categories / Civil Rights, Education, Regional

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.