NJ sues school districts requiring parental notification for student gender identity changes

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

New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin has filed lawsuits against three school districts in the Garden State over policies requiring parents to be notified if a child wants to change their gender identity and socially transition at school. 

Platkin, a Democrat, filed complaints against the Manalapan-Englishtown Regional School District, the Marlboro Township Public Schools and the Middletown Township Public Schools, and the districts' respective boards of education last week. 

The lawsuits, filed on June 21 in the Superior Court of New Jersey, come in response to what Platkin's office characterizes as the enactment of "an amended policy that unlawfully discriminates against students on the basis of gender identity and gender expression."

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The complaints characterize the policies as violations of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, warning that they will "result in significant and irreversible harm to students if not enjoined."

The policies in question require school districts to inform a child's parent or guardian if the pupil decides to change his or her gender identity. In Marlboro Township Public Schools, the Board of Education amended Policy 5756 on June 20 to clarify that "[I]n the spirit of transparency and parental involvement, the district will notify a student's parent/guardian of the student's change in gender identity."

The amended policy implemented by Marlboro Township Public Schools would provide an exception "where there is reason to believe that doing so would pose a danger to the health or safety of the pupil." The process involves a school counselor meeting with the student before discussing the child's gender identity with their parents.

The amended policy also requires parental notification when "ascertain[ing] the student's preference on matters such as chosen name and pronoun." 

According to the lawsuit, the new policy "requires that a parent/guardian 'shall' be consulted '[w]here there is a disagreement between the student and the family' in order to 'develop a plan for how the student will be referred to at school, including the pupil's name and/or choice of pronouns.'" It also directs school personnel to address students by their given name as opposed to their chosen name if the parents want their child to be referred to by their birth name.

"The Amended Policy abandons the prior policy's statement that '[a]ll students are entitled to have access to restrooms, locker rooms, and changing facilities in accordance with their gender identity to allow for involvement in various school programs and activities,' now providing only that a student 'may' be allowed such access only once '[t]he Principal or designee . . . consult[s] with the student and the student's parent/guardian to develop a plan for the student's use of facilities," the lawsuit added. 

The amendments to school policy adopted in Middletown Township Public Schools on June 20 contain similar language in addition to stating that parents have the right to know "[t]he full, complete, and accurate reasoning for counseling and/or referrals for mental health crisis and/or concerns" related to their child's gender identity. 

While the Middletown Township Public Schools' policy changes leave in place the allowance for trans-identified children to use facilities consistent with their gender identity, they require "parental notification whenever a student actually requests to use these facilities as part of a 'public social transition accommodation.'"

The Manapalan-Englishtown Regional School District's policy changes also approved on June 20, include additional requirements placing "the responsibility for determining a student's gender identity" for students in grades Pre-K through 5 with their parents or guardians. 

The state believes these policies run afoul of guidance developed by the New Jersey Department of Education, declaring that "there is no affirmative duty for any school district personnel to notify a student's parent or guardian of the student's gender identity or expression." Additionally, the guidance requires school districts to "keep confidential a current, new, or prospective student's transgender status." It prohibits school officials from "disclosing information that may reveal a student's transgender status."

The Attorney General's Office expresses concern that the amendments to school district policies will subject trans-identified 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."

The actions of the respective school districts come as several school districts nationwide have enacted policies that prohibit staff from informing a child's parents that they wish to identify as the opposite sex if the child requests the parents not be told. Such policies have led parents to speak out and even file lawsuits against public school policies prohibiting staff from informing a child's parents that they wish to identify as the opposite sex if the child requests the parents not be told. 

In Florida, parents sued the Leon County School District for referring to their daughter by a male name and pronouns at school while using her given name and pronouns in communication with the child's parents, effectively hiding their daughter's social transition from them. 

Concerns about efforts by school districts to conceal children's social transitions from parents led to the passage of a parental rights bill in Florida that requires school officials to keep parents informed about their children's mental, physical and emotional health while preventing schools from withholding such information from parents. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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