Inside the fight to keep parents in the know about their kids’ gender in California schools

(The Daily Signal) – A Southern California school district requires teachers and staff to notify parents when their children say they have been bullied, are considering self-harm, or decide…

(The Daily Signal) – A Southern California school district requires teachers and staff to notify parents when their children say they have been bullied, are considering self-harm, or decide to publicly identify as a gender opposite their biological sex at school.

But California’s Democratic attorney general, Rob Bonta, sued the district to block that policy, claiming that it violates the state’s constitution; specifically, the students’ privacy rights.

Emily Rae, senior counsel at the nonprofit Liberty Justice Center, sat down with “The Daily Signal Podcast” to break down the issues at the center of the case. Her organization represents the Chino Valley Unified School District, the Los Angeles-area district whose policy Bonta opposes.

“While it is true that students have certain privacy rights, this is not a case that violates those privacy rights,” Rae said. “The child is going to school; the policy is only triggered or enforced if the child actually goes to a teacher or a school administrator and affirmatively says, ‘I want to go by a different name. I want to use different pronouns. I want to use a different bathroom.’”

“You know, this is an action that the student is taking, and it’s public in school,” she noted. “Anyone who works at the school needs to know this so that they don’t ‘misgender’ a child or ‘deadname’ a child. The only people who don’t know are parents, and that is absolutely not OK.”

(“Misgendering” involves referring to a person who claims to identify as transgender with the pronouns associated with their biological sex, while “deadnaming” involves referring to a person who claims to identify as transgender by his or her original name, as opposed to the name associated with his or her stated gender identity.)

The San Bernardino Superior Court issued a temporary restraining order Sept. 6, barring the Chino Valley Unified School District from enforcing its policy. Yet about a week later, Judge Roger T. Benitez in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California granted a preliminary injunction preventing the Escondido Union School District from punishing teachers Elizabeth Mirabelli and Lori Ann West if they notified parents about a child’s claimed transgender identity.

The Escondido school district’s policy mandates that teachers and school staff will immediately accept a student’s claimed transgender identity and hide it from parents or guardians unless the student consents to notifying them.

Benitez ruled that Mirabelli and West are likely to succeed in arguing that the school district violated their First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion. The judge ordered the school district—and the California Board of Education—not to punish Mirabelli and West should they break the district’s policy.

Benitez cited nine Supreme Court rulings declaring that “parents have a right, grounded in the Constitution, to direct the education, health, and upbringing, and to maintain the well-being of their children.”

Bonta has suggested that the Escondido case has nothing to do with the Chino Valley case, but Escondido’s lawyer, Paul Jonna, a partner at LiMandri and Jonna LLP and special counsel to the Thomas More Society, said Bonta is defying Benitez’s order.

“The court’s analysis in the Mirabelli opinion focuses on the First Amendment and explains under the 14th Amendment parental rights are being violated by this policy,” Jonna told The Daily Signal last month. “If this policy in our case violates the U.S. Constitution, 14th Amendment, parental rights, that would apply anywhere in the state.”

Jonna sent an open letter to the California attorney general, warning, “If California continues to openly defy Judge Benitez’s preliminary injunction, and undermine its holding and reasoning, an injunction against the Chino Valley litigation may be necessary.”

Rae noted that “at the heart of both cases is the same idea, that schools should not be able to keep secrets from parents.”

She also noted that California law already stipulates that if parents are abusing or neglecting a child, the state should intervene. Bonta’s preferred transgender-secrets policies are based on the idea that parents who disagree with the state’s ideology on gender represent a threat to their own children, regardless of any evidence to the contrary.

“So, anyone that’s trying to say that kids can get hurt because of this, it’s a red herring,” Rae argued.

Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript at The Daily Signal.