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Judge dismisses lawsuit against school district hiding trans students' gender identity from parents

Montgomery County Public Schools
A sign sits outside the Montgomery County Public Schools Board of Education headquarters in Rockville, Maryland. |

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by parents over a school district's policy that permits school officials to withhold information about students' gender identity from their parents in some cases, causing critics to warn of efforts to "destroy the family and capture the souls of our children." 

Judge Paul Grimm of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, appointed to the bench by former President Barack Obama, issued an opinion Thursday siding with Montgomery County Public Schools "Guidelines for Student Gender Identity."

Located just outside Washington, D.C., Montgomery County Public Schools educated 158,232 students in the 2021-22 school year, making it the largest school district in the state.

A group of parents anonymously filed a lawsuit asking a federal court to prevent the school district from implementing its policies regarding trans-identified students. The guidelines state, "Prior to contacting a student's parent/guardian, the principal or identified staff member should speak with the student to ascertain the level of support the student either receives or anticipates receiving from home."

The guidelines repeatedly suggest that schools should hide their children's gender transition from parents.

"In some cases, transgender and nonconforming students may not openly express their gender identity at home because of safety concerns or lack of acceptance," the document states. "Matters of gender identity can be complex and may involve familial conflict."

"If this is the case and support is required, Student Welfare and Compliance (SWC) should be contacted. In such cases, staff will support the development of a student-led plan that works toward inclusion of the family, if possible, taking safety concerns into consideration, as well as student privacy," the guidance added. 

The guidelines also state that "information about a student's transgender status, legal name, or sex assigned at birth may constitute confidential medical information" and therefore, "disclosing this information to other students, their parents/guardians, or third parties may violate privacy laws, such as the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)." 

"Unless the student or parent/guardian has specified otherwise, when contacting the parent/guardian of a transgender student, MCPS school staff members should use the student's legal name and pronoun that correspond to the student's sex assigned at birth," the guidelines read. 

The school district authorizes school officials to establish a "gender support plan" with trans-identified students, including completing an "Intake Form" by school officials with or without parental consent.

According to The Washington Post, Grimm wrote in his order that "The Guidelines carefully balance the interests of both the parents and the students" and encourages parental input "when the student consents" but avoids parental input "when the student expresses concern that the parents would not be supportive, or that disclosing their gender identity to their parents may put them in harm's way." 

Grimm ruled the policy consistent with the Montgomery County Board of Education's "legitimate interest in providing a safe and supportive environment for all MCPS students, including those who are transgender and gender nonconforming."

Additionally, he maintained that the plaintiffs did not provide "specific allegations" about the impact the guidelines had on "counseling their own children."

Rod Dreher of the American Conservative described Grimm's ruling as a victory for the view that "the State has the right to deceive parents about whether or not their children are choosing to live as the opposite sex."

In a blog titled "The State Hates Families," Dreher lamented what he sees as the decision's confirmation that "the State — in the form of the local school board — has the right to deceive parents about this fundamental aspect of their child's life." 

"Under Communism, the State usurped the family," he wrote. "Children are being raised by schools, and by news and entertainment media, to believe … insane lies about their bodies and their gender, and to believe that parents are the enemy, that the State is their friend and ally."

"We are ruled by a malignant class that wants to destroy the family and capture the souls of our children," he added. "[T]he schools — this federal judge — believes your children belong to it, and that you, as a mother or a father, are a danger to your child if you disagree with gender ideology, and that you have no right to expect public schools to tell you the truth."

He classified this way of thinking as "Totalitarian," stressing that "there is almost nothing more important, politically, than protecting children from the State." 

In Leon County, Florida, parents January and Jeffery Littlejohn filed a lawsuit last year against the school district and its leaders for holding a meeting with their daughter to discuss changes to her gender identity and working to hide such changes from them without their consent.

Outrage over similar policies and actions taken by school district officials to conceal information from parents prompted the passage of a "parental rights in education" bill passed in Florida earlier this year.

The bill, approved by the state's Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in March, requires public school districts to "adopt procedures for notifying a student's parent if there is a change in the student's services or monitoring related to the student's mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being and the school's ability to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for the student." 

The law also proclaims that "A school district may not adopt procedures or student support forms that prohibit school district personnel from notifying a parent about his or her student's mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being, or a change in related services or monitoring, or that encourage or have the effect of encouraging a student to withhold from a parent such information." 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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