California AG sues school district over gender-identity parental notification policy


About 1,000 Californians rallied in front of the state capitol steps in Sacramento on Aug. 21, 2023, to protest a series of bills they say would take away their rights as parents. / Credit: Snejanna Yalanji

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 30, 2023 / 15:34 pm (CNA).

The attorney general of California announced a lawsuit against a Southern California school district over its policy calling for parents to be notified if their child seeks to change his or her gender identity, calling it a “forced outing” rule that puts students in danger.

Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a press release this week that it had brought suit against Chino Valley Unified School District over its “mandatory gender identity disclosure policy.”

The policy requires schools in the district to inform parents when their child seeks to use a different name or pronoun from the ones listed on the child’s birth certificate. The rule, Policy 5020.1, was passed earlier this year by the school district’s board of education.

Bonta brought the lawsuit due to what he said was the board’s “wrongfully and unconstitutionally discriminating against and violating the privacy rights of LGBTQ+ students.”

“The forced outing policy wrongfully endangers the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of nonconforming students who lack an accepting environment in the classroom and at home,” Bonta claimed.

The rule runs afoul of California constitutional and statutory law, the attorney general said in his statement.

Earlier this month Bonta had announced that his office was opening a civil rights investigation into the school district over the rule. The prosecutor in July had urged the board to refrain from passing the rule.

District spokeswoman Andi Johnston told CNA via e-mail that the district itself “was not notified of yesterday’s lawsuit filing until after media personnel began to report on the situation.”

The Chino district had been cooperating with the district attorney’s office before the filing, Johnston said, including providing “requested documents and records.”

The district prioritizes “provid[ing] all students with a safe and positive educational experience,” Johnston said. The policy, she noted, “protect[s] transgender students and takes their safety extremely seriously.”

“Through BP 5020.1, staff are required to notify CPS/law enforcement if the student or staff member believes the student is in danger or has been abused, injured, or neglected due to their parent or guardian knowing of their preferred gender identity,” Johnston said.

“In these circumstances, CVUSD staff will not notify parents or guardians but rather wait for the appropriate agencies to complete their investigations regarding the concerns shared by the student.”

The Chino rule is one of several measures lately taken by school districts and governments around the country in an attempt to address transgender identities that have proliferated among many students in recent years.

In an inverse to the Chino controversy, earlier this year two California teachers sued the Escondido Union School District over its policy requiring them to potentially refrain from telling parents the “gender identity” of their children.

At the state level, California has taken steps to enshrine transgender protections into state law. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2021 signed a law requiring public colleges to update their records for students who change their names. The law was celebrated by LGBT advocates, as transgender-identified individuals regularly change their names to match their chosen identities.

Last year Newsom also signed legislation offering protection for transgender-identified young people and their families whose own states may have banned “gender-affirming” procedures for youth such as synthetic hormones and “puberty blockers.”

Laws recently passed in other states, meanwhile, including Virginia and North Carolina, have given parents in those states more rights regarding their children while the latter are enrolled in public schools.

Schools in Virginia are required to “keep parents informed about their children’s well-being,” that state’s laws stipulate, while in North Carolina, schools are forbidden from enacting policies that discourage employees from keeping parents informed of the “mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being” of their children.

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