Judge bars California school district from outing transgender students to parents

A San Bernardino Superior Court judge granted a preliminary injunction requested by the state on Thursday, Oct. 19, preventing the Chino Valley Unified School District from implementing portions of its parental notification policy.

The policy, which was adopted by the board in July, sought to require schools to notify parents if a student requests to change their name or pronouns, gain access to facilities or sports programs that do not correspond to the gender on their birth certificates, or request to change their school records.

Judge Michael Sachs ruled in court on Thursday that the policy’s first two provisions, which require transgender students to be outed to their parents, are sex discriminatory and violate the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

The third provision, on the other hand, is “neutral facing,” according to Sachs, because it applies to all students, not just those seeking gender-affirming accommodations.

He went on to say that the policy’s final provision “is a circumstance in which the students are making this information a voluntary addition to their school records, not a mandated obligation.”

Opponents of the district’s notification policy celebrated Sach’s decision as a victory for their cause.

“The judge accurately described the forced outing policy as’discriminatory on its face,’ and we agree,” said Kristi Hirst, a former teacher, parent, and co-founder of Our Schools USA in a news release.

“It’s embarrassing that this school board chooses to ignore the harm they are causing in Chino and in communities throughout California in order to pursue a political crusade,” Hirst went on to say. “Educating children works best with engaged parents and caring teachers working together to create a safe space for all children to learn – and that’s what school boards ought to be focused on.”

Sachs acknowledged that all parties are concerned about student safety.

“The issues we are dealing with are significant and important to both the school district, the parents, the teachers, as well as the students,” Sachs said. “I am hopeful the decisions I make today will provide some (clarity) to San Bernardino and the Inland Empire.”

Chino Valley is scheduled to return to court on February 26, 2024, to set a formal trial date.

“We look forward to defending Chino Valley’s policy as the case moves forward,” said Emily Rae, senior counsel for the Liberty Justice Center, which is representing the district in court.

“Both the law and public opinion are on Chino Valley’s side — recent polling shows that a supermajority of Californians believe parents should be involved in their kids’ education and that schools should not keep secrets from parents,” Rae said in a statement.

In September, state Attorney General Rob Bonta filed a lawsuit to halt the implementation of the CVUSD notification policy.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Garza granted the state’s request for a temporary restraining order on September 6, putting the policy on hold.

Garza stated at the time that he granted the injunction out of “abundance of caution,” noting that while the majority of parents are not a danger to their children, there are exceptions.

The June notification policy requires schools to notify parents in writing within three days if their child identifies as transgender, engages in violence, or discusses suicide. The provisions concerning the outing of transgender students have sparked outrage among LGBTQ students and advocates.

Meanwhile, as of September 15, seven school districts, including Murrieta, Temecula, and Orange, had adopted their own parent notification policies.

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