A judge on Wednesday halted a Southern California school district from requiring parents to be notified if their children change their gender identification or pronouns at school.
San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Thomas S. Garza ruled after California Attorney General Rob Bonta sued the Chino Valley Unified School District for adopting a policy requiring schools to tell parents when their children change their pronouns or use a bathroom of a gender other than the one listed on their official paperwork.
“Today’s decision by the San Bernardino Superior Court rightfully upholds the state rights of our LGBTQ+ students and protects kids from harm by immediately halting the board’s forced outing policy,” Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement.
Garza’s order halts the district’s policy while Bonta’s lawsuit continues. Full details of the order were not immediately available.
During a court hearing Wednesday, Garza raised questions about why the policy came up in the first place and how it protected students.
The next court hearing on the issue was scheduled for Oct. 13.
Messages left for Chino Valley Unified were not immediately returned.
The district, which serves 27,000 students about 35 miles (55 kilometers) east of Los Angeles, is one of several that requires parents to be informed if their children are transgender. Two nearby districts have done the same, while at least two others in the state are bringing up similar measures this week.
Bonta argues the policy will forcibly out transgender students in violation of their privacy rights and threaten their well-being. Chino Valley contends the policy seeks to involve parents so they can provide support their children need.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Delbert Tran, a deputy attorney general for California, said students were already being affected by the policy and feared being themselves at school, and that risking the safety of one transgender student would be too many. “This policy needs to be addressed now,” Tran told the court.
Attorneys for Chino Valley Unified argued that the policy would not affect students who were holding private conversations with teachers, but would bring parents into the conversation in situations where students were making decisions on campus such as changing their name, pronouns or using bathrooms or joining sports teams of a gender other than the one on their official paperwork.
The district also questioned whether elementary school students as young as 4 and 5 years old should be treated the same as high school teens involved in confidential counseling.
The national conversation over transgender rights has intensified as other states have sought to impose bans on gender-affirming care, bar transgender athletes from girls and women’s sports, and require schools to “out” transgender and nonbinary students to their parents.
In California, parental notification policies cropped up after Republican state lawmaker Bill Essayli proposed a statewide bill on the issue, but it never received a hearing in Sacramento. He then worked with school board members and the California Family Council to draft the policy that was voted on in Chino Valley.
On Wednesday, Essayli said he hopes other school districts evaluating similar proposals will not be discouraged by the decision of a single judge.
“Today’s ruling does not impact our fight to protect parental rights,” Essayli said in a statement.
Many of the conversations about transgender students and LGBTQ+ curriculum are taking place in communities that elected more conservative school board members after the pandemic drove many parents who were angry about closures to political action. The districts are increasingly at odds with Gov. Gavin Newsom and fellow Democrats who dominate the state’s political leadership.
AMY TAXIN, Associated Press