Iowa judge rules against parents’ request to block school district’s new transgender policy

A district judge has denied a request to block an Iowa school district from enforcing its new transgender policy. 

The lawsuit was brought against the Linn-Mar School District by Parents Defending Education (PDE) on behalf of members in the district. 

The controversial new policy allows students to create “Gender Support Plans” and use their preferred name and gender pronouns at school and school facilities. For students in 7th grade and up, their preferences take precedent over their parents’, who are not to be informed of their student’s transgender status without the student’s permission. 

“Any student in seventh grade or older will have priority of their support plan over their parent/guardian. All supports can be documented in a Gender Support Plan,” the policy reads. 

The policy also specifically prohibits sharing certain information with parents: 

“The district shall not disclose information that may reveal a student’s transgender status to others including but not limited to other students, parents, and school staff unless legally required to do so (such as national standardized testing, driver’s permits, transcripts, etc.), or unless the student has authorized such disclosure.” 

In his Sept. 12 ruling, U.S. District Court Judge C.J. Williams says the plaintiff failed to prove that the rights of parents or of their children had been violated. 

“In short, the parents only assert that they fear their rights will be harmed if some uncertain future events occur,” the judge wrote. “They have not shown any of these harms to be certain or imminent.” 

The lawsuit, filed Aug. 2, sought to block enforcement of the new policy, arguing it infringes on two constitutional rights. 

“Nearly a century of Supreme Court precedent makes two things clear,” the lawsuit reads. “[P]arents have a constitutional liberty interest in the care, custody, and control of their children, and students do not abandon their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse gate. 

“The Linn-Mar Community School District is flouting both of these constitutional guarantees through its recent adoption of Policy 504.13-R.”  

In his ruling, Williams argued that blocking the enforcement of the new policy would cause more harm than if it were implemented. 

“An injunction would block students from any protection from harassment and bullying on the basis of gender identity and would prevent the school from disciplining such harassment and bullying under various Title IX and Iowa civil rights-related provisions,” he wrote. 

Nicole Neily, president of PDE, calls the school’s policy “unconscionable.” 

“A district that requires parental approval to administer aspirin is facilitating students’ gender transitions behind families’ backs – and maintaining this information in secrete ‘temporary’ files so that parents can NEVER gain access to this information,” Neily said in a statement on PDE’s website.  

“It is unconscionable – and unconstitutional – for schools to intentionally exclude parents from their children’s medical decisions.”