California Sues to Stop School ‘Outing’ Student Pronoun Changes

(Bloomberg) -- California sued a school district near Los Angeles in a bid to stop it from requiring parents to be informed when students ask to change their name or pronoun — escalating an issue that’s become a flash point in the state’s schools.

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Chino Valley Unified School District’s policy is to notify parents if a student asks to use facilities or participates in programs that don’t align with their sex on official records.

In the lawsuit, California Attorney General Rob Bonta argues that turning over the information to parents even if the district doesn’t have the student’s permission violates the state’s constitution and civil rights laws.

“Every student has the right to learn and thrive in a school environment that promotes safety, privacy, and inclusivity – regardless of their gender identity,” Bonta said in an emailed statement. “The forced outing policy wrongfully endangers the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of non-conforming students,” he said.

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Disputes over school disclosure policies are part of a broader nationwide controversy over students and gender identity that has included extensive litigation over access for transgender youths to bathrooms and sports teams.

The Chino Valley Unified School District, about 35 miles (60 kilometers) east of Los Angeles, said in an emailed statement that contrary to Bonta’s characterization, its policy protects transgender students. School district staff are required to notify law enforcement if students believe they’re in danger or have been abused, injured or neglected due to their parent or guardian knowing of their preferred gender identity, according to the statement.

In such circumstances, the school district’s staff will not notify parents or guardians, it said. Instead, it will “wait for the appropriate agencies to complete their investigations regarding the concerns shared by the student,” according to the statement.

The lawsuit is the latest in a series to hit the courts. This month, a federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, rejected a challenge by parents to guidelines adopted by the school board in Montgomery County, Maryland, allowing students to develop gender transition and support plans without parental knowledge.

In May, a New Jersey court did what Bonta is aiming for in California: It temporarily blocked the board of education in Hanover Township, New Jersey, from implementing a policy requiring schools to tell parents the gender identity and sexual orientation of LGBTQ students.

US President Joe Biden in June announced federal efforts designed to help LGBTQ youth counter book bans following Republican efforts at the state and local level to pass laws targeting transgender people. Republicans, including presidential candidates such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, have sought to limit educators’ discussions of sexuality with minors. The governor’s campaign to restrict public school teachers from discussing gender identity touched off a feud with the Walt Disney Co.

(updates with district statement starting in sixth paragraph.)

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