Maryland Parents Can’t Sue School Over Policy On Secret Gender Transitioning, Federal Appeals Court Rules
Dissent: Majority’s decision is “an unfortunate abdication of judicial duty … with respect to a very important constitutional issue that is directly harming and will likely continue to harm the parents in this case by usurping their constitutionally protected role.”
Earlier this week, a divided Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a group of Montgomery County, Maryland parents had no standing to challenge their schools’ gender transitioning policy.
The 2-1 decision marks the latest in what is now a series of losses in federal court for parents suing to protect their children from such policies that permit schools to encourage students’ gender transitioning behind their backs.
The Montgomery County school system has adopted gender identity guidelines that mirror those in other schools we wrote about here.
They include “gender support plans” that allow the school, on the student’s say-so, to support his or her delusion that they belong to the opposite sex:
The transition plans that are developed and implemented under the Guidelines include changing names and pronouns; requiring staff to comply with the use of such names and pronouns; changing school records; giving students the “right to dress in a manner consistent with their gender identity”; providing access to “gender-separated areas,” e.g., “bathrooms, locker rooms, and changing rooms”; providing access to classes and sports, in-school athletics, and clubs in accordance with the student’s new gender identity; promising special arrangements for “outdoor education/overnight field trips,” including sleeping arrangements; and providing safe places and other similar accommodations.
As with other schools’ policies, all this “social transitioning” takes place without the knowledge or consent of the students’ parents. For parents deemed to be “unsupportive”—again, based on the student’s word—Montgomery policy authorizes the school to continue to withhold information from them about their children’s new identity.
And for teachers who aren’t sure how to keep up this charade, the school offers more guidance:
“[s]chools should seek to minimize the use of permission slips and other school-specific forms that require disclosure of a student’s gender or use gendered terminology” and … “[u]nless the student or parent/guardian has specified otherwise, when contacting the parent/guardian of a transgender student, [Montgomery County] school staff members should use the student’s legal name and pronoun that correspond to the student’s sex assigned at birth.”
The Maryland parents’ case reached the Fourth Circuit when they appealed the district court ruling dismissing their lawsuit as a challenge to their schools’ curriculum over which they have no say.
On appeal, the school board challenged for the first time the parents’ standing to bring their lawsuit in federal court, arguing they failed to allege the type of injury required to show it.
The majority agreed. They said that the parents had only challenged the part of the “parental preclusion” policy that permits schools to withhold information about a student’s gender identity from parents:
The parents have not alleged that their children have gender support plans, are transgender or are even struggling with issues of gender identity. As a result, they have not alleged facts that the Montgomery County public schools have any information about their children that is currently being withheld or that there is a substantial risk information will be withheld in the future. Thus, under the Constitution, they have not alleged the type of injury required to show standing.
Maybe that’s because the school is keeping the parents in the dark about whether their kids have “gender support plans” in the first place. How could they ever allege the injury necessary to show standing if they have to wait to know what they can’t ever know because the school is hiding it from them?
This perverse outcome and the results-oriented reasoning that led to it weren’t lost on the dissent. Judge Paul V. Niemeyer said the majority had read the parents’ complaint way too narrowly. It hadn’t merely challenged the parental notification rules, but the broader ongoing policy that violates their parental rights:
The Parents are challenging a mandatory policy that is forced upon their children and that governs them daily, having the potential to change or actually changing the dynamics between parents and children in the school system insofar as gender identity is being actively discussed, counseled, and addressed in the school setting. Moreover, in its most intrusive element, the Policy invites minor children to develop and implement a gender transition plan without the knowledge, consent, or participation of their parents.
The majority is “unnecessarily subjecting the Parents by default to a mandatory policy that pulls the discussion of gender issues from the family circle to the public schools without any avenue of redress by the Parents.”
The majority’s conclusion is, in the circumstances of this case, an unfortunate abdication of judicial duty with respect to a very important constitutional issue that is directly harming and will likely continue to harm the Parents in this case by usurping their constitutionally protected role.
The schools’ gender transition plans are not the mere “curricular decisions” the district court made them out to be, the dissent added. They “implicate the very personal decisionmaking about children’s health, nurture, welfare, and upbringing, which are fundamental rights of the parents.”
This week’s decision comes amidst a growing body of scientific research suggesting that the schools themselves are complicit in a new phenomenon: rapid onset gender dysphoria (ROGD). Northwestern University’s professor of psychology Michael Bailey describes it at The Free Press as an “explosion” of cases, especially among “adolescent girls with no history of gender dysphoria, suddenly declaring they want to transition to the opposite sex.” He explains the theory behind ROGD:
Through social contagion from friends, social media, and even school, vulnerable girls are exposed to the idea that their normal adolescent angst is the result of an underlying transgender identity. These girls then suddenly declare that they are transgender. That is the rapid onset.
That theory might also explain what’s going on in places like Montgomery County, Maryland. Since officials instituted the new policy there, more than 300 students are allegedly gender transitioning with their schools’ assistance—all without notice to their parents. But by the court’s logic, parents won’t be able to obtain relief “until they learn that their own children are actually considering gender transition.” And by then, we have learned, it’s already too late.DONATE
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