ALF Amicus Brief Argues That School District’s Transgender Student Policy Violates Parental Rights

Case Background

Parents Defending Education, a nonprofit organization that promotes “the restoration of a healthy, non-political education” for the nation’s children, has filed federal district court litigation challenging an Iowa public school district’s transgender student policy. This policy, titled Administrative Regulations Regarding Transgender and Students Nonconforming to Gender Role Stereotypes, purports “to expeditiously address the needs of transgender students, gender-expansive students, nonbinary, gender nonconforming students, and students questioning their gender.”

Regardless of parents’ wishes, or even knowledge, the policy allows young teenage (and perhaps preteen) boys and girls to choose their own “names/pronouns, restroom and locker facilities, overnight accommodations on school trips, and participation in activities,” and how to “dress in accordance with their gender identity.” A student not only can request school officials to develop and implement an individualized “Gender Support Plan,” but also direct them to conceal this information from his or her parents.

Parents Defending Education contends that the school district’s gender identity policy is unconstitutional. An Iowa district court denied a motion for a preliminary injunction enjoining the policy, and Parents Defending Education has appealed that denial to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

ALF has filed an amicus brief urging the court of appeals to reverse the district court’s denial of the preliminary injunction. The brief—co-authored by ALF Executive Vice President & General Counsel Lawrence Ebner and John Reeves of Reeves Law LLC in St. Louis—explains that  a long line of Supreme Court cases, as well as English and American common law, establish parents’ right to control the upbringing and education of their children.

ALF’s Amicus Brief

ALF’s amicus brief explains that the gender identity policy’s parental exclusion provisions conflict with the centuries-old tenet of Anglo-American law, reflected in Supreme Court cases for the past hundred years,  that parents are best suited to make decisions concerning the upbringing and education of their children. “Along with similar policies being adopted—over parents’ objections—by a growing number of school districts throughout the United States, the gender identity policy at issue threatens to erode the social and educational fabric of the nation.”

The brief argues that the school district’s policy “blatantly conflicts with parents’ right to control the upbringing and education of their children, including the manner in which their sons and daughters present themselves to, and interact with, administrators, counselors, teachers, and other students while attending school.  At the very least, parents have the right to know whether their son or daughter assumes a drastically different identity during the school day.” The policy not only allows a child to conceal this vital information from his or her parents, but also to exclude them from any involvement in, or even knowledge of, the development or implementation of his or her individualized, school-approved, “Gender Support Plan.”

For example, the policy enables a seventh-grade (i.e., 12 or 13 year-old) or older child to arrive at school each morning, and without the knowledge, much less approval, of his or her parents, choose to be called by a different name, to be referred to by the opposite gender’s pronouns, to use the opposite gender’s bathroom, to wear the opposite gender’s clothing, to play on the opposite gender’s intramural sports teams, and to undress and shower in the opposite gender’s locker room—all this, and more, with the support, if not active encouragement, of school officials and teachers.  And because the policy empowers a gullible child to direct school officials and teachers to keep his or her parents in the dark, there is no opportunity for oblivious parents to object to their child’s gender-related choices, consult with qualified professionals or school officials, or provide parental guidance to their children about this extraordinarily sensitive subject.

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