California judge blocks school district policy to notify parents about student gender identity changes

September 8, 2023
Ben Marquis

A school board in California passed in July a new policy that requires teachers and staff to notify parents if their student seeks to change their gender identity.

A state judge just issued a temporary restraining order to block that policy by the Chino Valley Unified School District board in response to a lawsuit filed by California Attorney General Rob Bonta, the Washington Examiner reported.

Bonta had smeared the notification rule as a "forced outing policy" and argued that it placed transgender and "nonbinary" students at risk of harm while the district countered that it was merely respecting and protecting parental rights.

Judge blocks parental notification policy

In an order filed Wednesday, San Bernadino Superior Court Judge Thomas Garza granted the temporary restraining order requested by AG Bonta that, for now, will block the Chino Valley Unified School District from enforcing its parental notification policy with regard to a student's gender identity.

The TRO will remain in effect until a hearing scheduled for October 13 in which the school district must "show cause" and explain why the judge shouldn't also impose a preliminary injunction requested by Bonta that would further block enforcement of the policy until a final decision on the matter is rendered.

In addition, the judge also granted a request from Bonta to redact or seal or allow pseudonyms to be used for adults and minor students who filed declarations with the court in opposition to the parental notification policy.

State AG and school board president react

The Examiner reported that Judge Garza said of his ruling, "The concern is how do we safeguard these students that identify as LGBTQ, and in my view, it's a situation that is singling out a class of protected individuals differently than the rest of the students."

Following the court's decision, AG Bonta issued a press release to praise the judge's ruling and said in a statement, "San Bernardino Superior Court’s decision to issue a temporary restraining order rightfully upholds the state rights of our LGBTQ+ student community and protects kids from harm by immediately halting the board’s forced outing policy."

"While this fight is far from over, today’s ruling takes a significant step towards ensuring the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of transgender and gender-nonconforming students," he added. "As we continue challenging the policy in court, my office will continue providing our unwavering support to ensure every student has the right to learn and thrive in a school environment that promotes safety, privacy, and inclusivity."

On the other side of the matter, the Examiner noted that Chino Valley school board president Sonja Shaw expressed her "disappointment" in Judge Garza's ruling and the state's opposition to the parental notification policy, and said in a statement, "I don’t understand why they are so gung ho on this issue, but everything else we have to inform the parents about. There is obviously an issue and parents are concerned."

Fight not over; Other districts have similar policies

The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reported that Judge Garza said he issued his ruling out of an "abundance of caution" for the relative handful of students who might face some sort of harm by the parental notification policy even as he acknowledged that the vast majority of parents would pose no danger whatsoever to their gender-questioning student.

Board president Shaw told the outlet that the fight had just begun and said, "We spent months bringing together a policy that allows parents to be involved in the upbringing in their child’s life," and added that the policy itself "does not stop any lifestyle changes, this just says the parents have a right to know."

The parental notification policy, which has already been similarly implemented by a few other school districts, is supported by State Rep. Bill Essayli, who unsuccessfully pushed for a similar policy at the state level. Essayli told the Bulletin, "I encourage other school districts to continue their deliberative process and to not be deterred by the attorney general’s intimidation tactics we saw displayed in court today."

The policy is also supported by many parents in the Chino Valley district, including Nichole Vicario, who told the outlet, "I think it’s harmful when you don’t involve families in those types of decisions for children," and added, "I think children should not be keeping secrets from parents and schools should not be keeping secrets in regards to their children. And when you do that, you’ve already created a hostile environment within the home that may not have already been there."

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