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Supreme Court dismisses case questioning school district’s transgender policy

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a case about a Maryland school district’s policies supporting transgender students and when parents can challenge them.

The court’s actions Parents 1 v. Montgomery County Board of Education was not a decision on the merits, but the case is emblematic of a widespread national debate over gender identity policies in public schools and parental rights.

“Schools across the country in recent years have adopted policies similar to those here, requiring school staff to hide from parents – lying if necessary – that the school is helping their child with gender transition at school,” it said appeal submitted. by three unknown parents in their case against the 160,000-student Montgomery County district outside the nation’s capital.

The parents allege that what they call a “parental exclusion policy” encourages school staff to support gender-transitioning students in changing their names, pronouns and how they “display” their gender without officials consulting parents or even notify. They argued that the policy violates their 14th Amendment right to due process to direct their children’s education.

The school district said so in its Supreme Court letter that the “Gender Identity Guidelines,” adopted ahead of the 2020-2021 school year, call for collaboration with parents in developing a gender support plan for a transitioning student.

But when the student’s parents are perceived as unsupportive, the guidelines recognize “the reality that ‘in some cases, transgender and gender nonconforming students may not openly express their gender identity at home due to safety concerns or a lack of acceptance,’” and, in light of that reality, indicate that student support and safety is an overarching goal,” the district said, quoting from the guidelines.

The parents’ lawsuit was dismissed by a federal district court in 2022. Last year, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Virginia, ruled 2-1 that the parents had no standing to challenge the guidelines because none of their children had gender support plans or discussions with school officials about gender transition or gender identity issues.

Writing for the majority, Justice A. Marvin Quattlebaum Jr. said the guidelines are “baffling from a policy perspective” and may constitute “an overreach in areas that parents should be concerned with.”

But the parents “have not alleged any facts that Montgomery County Public Schools have any information about their children that is currently being withheld or that there is a significant risk that information will be withheld in the future,” he said.

Judge Paul V. Niemeyer said in a dissent that the majority’s view of the status of parents in the case was “unfairly narrow” and subjected parents “to a mandatory policy that draws discussion of gender issues out of the family circle and into the public schools , without any possibility of discrimination.” satisfaction by the parents.”

Niemeyer also questioned the legality of the district’s guidelines, saying they usurp “the constitutionally protected role” of parents.

School districts’ policies toward transgender students facing legal challenges

The parents, backed by the National Legal Foundation of Chesapeake, Virginia, also received support from several conservative groups and Republican-led states in the Supreme Court. A friend-of-the-court brief filed by West Virginia and 16 other red states said: “Parents should have the right to seek the court’s assistance in securing the fundamental right to know what schools are doing to their children.”

The parents and states both cite statistics from the grassroots group Parents Defending Education that more than 1,000 districts nationwide have policies for transgender and gender-nonconforming students that “openly state that district personnel can or must conceal a student’s transgender status from parents.”

The Montgomery County School District told the court in its brief that the 4th Circuit was correct in ruling that the parent challengers lacked standing. It says there are several cases across the country alleging school districts denied that child’s parents information about a child’s gender transition.

If the parents and their supporters are “correct that similar cases are filtering through the lower courts, then the (Supreme) Court should address these issues, if at all, in cases that present an actual case or controversy,” the district said.

This isn’t the only LGBTQ+ controversy in Montgomery County. Last week, a separate 4th Circuit panel issued a decision declining to block the district’s policy prevent parents from excluding their children from LGBTQ+-inclusive “storybooks” used in primary schools.