Image Credit: Parents Defending Education / Facebook
By Bethany Blankley [The Center Square contributor] –
Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti joined a coalition of eighteen attorneys general in total, led by Montana’s Austin Knudsen, in filing an amicus brief with an appeals court in support of parental rights in school in a case filed by Parents Defending Education against Linn-Mar School District in Iowa.
Represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, PDE sued in August in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Iowa, Cedar Rapids Division, arguing Linn Mar’s policy to withhold information about children from their parents is unconstitutional. PDE asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction to halt the policy while the case progressed. District Judge C.J. Williams denied their request in September.
The case is now before the St. Louis-based Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. So far, the AGs and 47 organizations filed briefs in support of PDE, including First Liberty Institute, Liberty Justice Center, Institute for Free Speech & Moms for Liberty, and the Justice Foundation & Parental Rights Iowa.
“Parents have a fundamental constitutional right to direct the upbringing and care of their children. School policies cannot intentionally leave parents in the dark about their child’s mental and emotional well-being,” Knudsen said. “The courts must step in to protect these kids and stop the violation of parental rights at the hands of woke school administrators.”
The AGs are “pushing back against woke school administrators who are encouraging students to ‘transition’ without their parents’ knowledge or consent,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who joined the AG coalition, said.
The AG’s asked the court to reverse Williams’ decision, arguing Linn-Mar’s policy causes “immediate and irreparable harm on parents by withholding information on their child’s gender identity.”
“Linn-Mar’s policy violates parents’ fundamental right to ‘to direct the upbringing of their children’ – ‘perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by [the Supreme] Court,’” they argue in their brief. “The policy inflicts an immediate and irreparable harm on parents by withholding information about whether their child has taken any action concerning his or her gender identity, leaving parents completely in the dark about their child’s mental and emotional well-being.”
PDE’s lawsuit challenges school district policy that allows seventh through twelfth grade students to devise a “Gender Support Plan” and make other decisions without notifying their parents.
Although the policy applies to “transgender students, gender-expansive students, nonbinary, gender nonconforming students, and students questioning their gender,” any student may “request” to create such a plan. Those who do can decide who attends a meeting with district officials “within 10 school days” to develop it, “including whether their parent/guardian will participate.”
The policy states the plan “will have priority … over their parent/guardian” at least for “[a]ny student in seventh grade” or higher. However, it also notes that creating a plan “is not required for a student” to adopt a transgender or nonbinary identity at school without their parents’ knowledge.
The policy also instructs plans to be maintained in a “student’s temporary records, not the student’s permanent records,” and all conversations “between students and school counselors” or other staff members and “all written records related to student meetings concerning their gender identity and/or gender transition with any staff member will be kept in a temporary file that shall be maintained by the school counselor.”
Parents are not given access to the temporary files due to students’ “right to privacy” and school district employees are instructed to “not disclose information that may reveal a student’s transgender status to others including … parents … unless legally required to do so … or unless the student” consents. It also prohibits school staff from “contacting [a student’s] parent/guardian” without “check[ing] with the student first.”
The policy also allows students to decide which locker rooms and bathrooms they want to use, according to school district board members who voted 5-2 in April to pass it. In an April 13 Facebook post, school board president Brittania Morey said the policy complied with state and federal law.
“It is important to note while this policy is a new policy, it does NOT establish new procedures,” she wrote.
The policy passed despite widespread opposition, including the majority of people who spoke at the meeting before board members voted and more than 4,100 people who signed an online petition against it.
Linn Mar’s policy “is emblematic of an alarming national trend of left-wing school districts attempting to interfere with the vital role that parents play in children’s development,” Paxton said. “Allowing these young students to make life-altering decisions about their so-called gender identity without alerting parents is not only extremely damaging to the students themselves and to the entire family unit, but it also unlawfully violates parents’ foundational right to raise their children.”
Joining Knudsen and Paxton are attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia.
About the Author: Bethany Blankley is a writer at the Center Square, Patheos/Hedgerow, political analyst and former press secretary at Capitol Hill / NY / WDC. Follow Bethany on Twitter @BethanyBlankley.