Parents can't sue school district for hiding students' gender transitions: 4th Circuit

A sign advertises the Montgomery County Public Schools' Board of Education headquarters in Rockville, Maryland.
A sign advertises the Montgomery County Public Schools' Board of Education headquarters in Rockville, Maryland. | Screenshot: Google Maps

A panel of federal judges has ruled that a group of parents doesn't have standing to challenge a Maryland school district policy enabling officials to keep children's gender transitions a secret from their parents. 

In an opinion Monday, a three-judge panel on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that a group of parents suing Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland over a policy allowing school district officials to develop "gender support plans" for trans-identified students without parental consent did not have standing to file a complaint against the policy.

The ruling upholds an August 2022 decision by U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland Judge Paul Grimm dismissing the lawsuit. 

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The circuit's opinion, authored by Judge A. Marvin Quattlebaum, a Trump appointee, notes that "the Montgomery County Board of Education adopted Guidelines for Gender Identity for 2020-2021 that permit schools to develop gender support plans for students."

Quattlebaum stated that "the Guidelines allow implementation of these plans without the knowledge or consent of the students' parents," adding, "they even authorize schools to withhold information from the plans from the parents if the school deems the parents to be unsupportive." 

The plaintiffs allege the policy violates their "fundamental right to raise their children under the Fourteenth Amendment." However, Quattlebaum concludes that the parents lack standing to bring the case because they have "not alleged that their children have gender support plans, are transgender or even struggling with issues of gender identity." 

"As a result, they have not alleged facts that the Montgomery County public schools have any information about their children that is currently being withheld or that there is a substantial risk information will be withheld in the future," he added. "Thus, under the Constitution, they have not alleged the type of injury required to show standing. Absent an injury that creates standing, federal courts lack the power to address the parents' objections to the Guidelines."

Quattlebaum suggested that "the objections to the Guidelines" might "be quite persuasive." At the same time, he reiterated that the plaintiffs failed to "allege any injury to themselves," declaring that "opposition to the Parental Preclusion Policy reflects a policy disagreement" that does not warrant a judicial remedy.

"Policy disagreements should be addressed to elected policymakers at the ballot box, not to unelected judges in the courthouse," Quattlebaum wrote as he sent the litigation back to a lower court "to dismiss the case for lack of standing." Allison Jones Rushing, another judge appointed to the bench by Trump, joined Quattlebaum in the majority opinion.

Judge Paul Niemeyer, appointed to the bench by former President George H.W. Bush, authored a dissenting opinion maintaining that "the majority opinion reads the Parents' complaint in this case in an unfairly narrow way, and thus denies the Parents the ability to obtain relief, concluding that the parents have no standing to challenge the Guidelines until they learn that their own children are actually considering gender transition." 

Niemeyer also outlined some of the provisions of the guidelines that caused the parents to sue in the first place, which include the establishment of names and pronouns that align with a child's stated gender identity as opposed to their biological sex and requiring staff to address students by such pronouns, letting children use locker rooms and bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity and permitting them to compete on sports teams that align with their stated gender identity.  

As for Quattlebaum's suggestion that the future of Montgomery County's LGBT policy should be determined at the ballot box, parents across the U.S. have made their voices heard in school board elections by voting in favor of candidates seeking to abolish LGBT ideology, critical race theory and sexually explicit material from school and classroom libraries as well as the curriculum.

Since its launch in 2021, the 1776 Project PAC has achieved a mixed success rate in electing its preferred candidates who oppose critical race theory and the promotion of LGBT ideology and sexually explicit material at school. The PAC works to elect "school board members nationwide who want to reform our public education system by promoting patriotism and pride in American history" by "abolishing critical race theory and 'The 1619 Project' from the school curriculum."

After an overwhelming success rate in school board elections that took place in Texas in the spring of 2022, the 1776 Project PAC saw its endorsed candidates flip five school boards in Florida from majority liberal to majority conservative that summer and achieved a success rate of slightly less than 50% in school board elections that took place in November of last year. 

School board candidates opposed to the Montgomery County policy, regardless of whether or not they are endorsed by the 1776 Project PAC, may have a tougher time winning since President Joe Biden carried the county with nearly 79% of the vote in the 2020 presidential election. However, voters in San Francisco, which gave Biden an even higher share of the vote in 2020, overwhelmingly voted to recall three school board members who became the subject of complaints. 

Montgomery County Public Schools is not the only school district to face a lawsuit over policies that allow school officials to aid children in gender transitions behind their parents' backs. Parents in Leon County, Florida, and Chico, California, have taken their respective school districts to court for "socially transitioning" their children without their consent.

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

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