Judge blocks 3 school districts from enforcing trans parental notification policy

A sign outside a classroom taken in 2016.
A sign outside a classroom taken in 2016. | REUTERS/Tami Chappell

A New Jersey judge temporarily blocked three school districts from enforcing a policy that requires schools to inform parents if their child expresses a desire to identify as trans or non-binary as districts nationwide face similar debates about parental rights. 

The three school districts in Monmouth County — the Manalapan-Englishtown Regional School District, the Marlboro Township Public Schools and Middletown Township Public Schools — enacted their respective parental notification policies in June. 

The policies require school staff to notify parents when their children request to change their names or pronouns to match a stated gender identity that is different than their biological sex.

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As reported Saturday, New Jersey Superior Court Judge David F. Bauman granted the state of New Jersey's request Friday for a preliminary injunction against the policies following a lawsuit against the districts by Democratic Attorney General Matthew Platkin.

Bauman issued the injunction after a hearing last week that provided representatives of both parties to make their arguments. 

"The state has demonstrated a reasonable probability of success on its claim that the Amended Policies, if implemented, will have a disparate impact on transgender, gender nonconforming, and nonbinary youth," Bauman wrote in his Friday decision. 

The judge clarified, however, that he was not rendering a final judgment about the arguments presented by the state or the school boards. 

Bauman hopes the involved parties could reach "a consensus of policy of parental disclosure that best strikes a legally appropriate and practice balance between protecting the civil rights of transgender, gender non-conforming, and gender non-binary students, and the well-settled right of parental oversight over the care and upbringing of their children."

During the Tuesday hearing, an attorney for one of the school districts warned about the potential dangers of schools failing to inform parents that their child is struggling with gender identity. The attorney noted that parents would likely be angry if they learned their child had harmed themselves due to their gender identity issues and the school kept this information from them. 

In a statement, Platkin praised the injunction as a "major victory for civil rights." The attorney general believes that the districts' policies discriminate against people based on "gender identity or expression."

The attorney general argued that the policies altered the Department of Education's guidelines, which do not prohibit parental notification but advises school districts to be "mindful" of disputes involving students and their parents surrounding gender identity.

"To be clear, the State has always respected the rights of parents and agrees that parents should be involved in important decisions regarding their children — and any characterizations to the contrary are flatly incorrect," Platkin said.

"All our lawsuits seek to do is to reinstate the same policies these districts found acceptable with little protest for years," he concluded. "Put simply, we can both keep parents informed about their children's development and protect the civil rights of our most vulnerable students."

As The Christian Post reported, Platkin filed complaints in June against the three school districts and their respective boards of education in the Superior Court of New Jersey. 

The attorney general's office expressed fear that the parental notification policies would subject trans-identifying students to "the continuous threat of being 'outed' if they have not already made their gender identity or gender expression known to their parents or guardians." 

Debates about the districts' parental notification policies come as parents nationwide have filed lawsuits over school policies that keep them in the dark about whether their child is identifying as the opposite sex. Other parents have sued school districts for allegedly helping their children transition without parental consent. 

A similar debate also arose in California after the Murrieta Valley Unified School District adopted a policy requiring staff to notify parents within three days after becoming aware of a student's request to be treated as a member of the opposite sex.

Opponents of the policy argued at a board meeting that schools may be the "only affirming space" trans students can find if they have parents who object to their gender identity. Others, including School Board President Paul F. Diffley III, asserted that he'd want all relevant information about his child's physical and mental health. 

"I don't think there should be anything hidden because I have a fundamental right as a parent to bring up my child. ... If I can't get all the information I need to have a reasonable discussion with my child, then the school is not doing its job," Diffley told The Los Angeles Times earlier this month. 

In July, Chino Valley Unified School District also passed a parental notification policy, which led to threats of violence against members of the board. 

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follow her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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