A parental rights organization is suing an Ohio school district over a policy that allegedly punishes students who intentionally “misgender” their peers.
Parents Defending Education (PDE), a parental rights organization, sued Olentangy Local School District on Thursday on behalf of parents within the school system, stating that the district has warned that students who intentionally use pronouns different from other students’ “preferred pronouns” are in violation its policies and will be subject to “disciplinary action.” The district’s Personal Communication Devices Policy prohibits students from using their cell phone or laptop, whether on or off campus, to send any messages that may be viewed as “harassment” of others based on their race, sex, “transgender identity” and political beliefs.
The district, through its attorneys, allegedly confirmed to parents that its policies prohibit students from intentionally using the wrong pronouns when addressing someone, or “misgendering” them, the lawsuit stated. This violation is subject to punishment, the district allegedly told parents.
“The ‘harassment’ policies at Olentangy impinge on basic constitutional rights and are over broad in a way that polices students’ speech both inside and outside of the classroom,” Caroline Moore, vice president of PDE, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “We feel deeply for what these students and their families have gone through day in and day out during their time in the District. We look forward to championing their First Amendment rights”
Violations of the Personal Communication Devices may result in confiscation of a student’s device and discipline ranging from a warning to expulsion depending on the nature of the incident, the policy stated. The Anti-Harassment Policy prohibits “any threatening, insulting or dehumanizing” speech, and violations of the order are subject to an investigation by the school board.
“Lest there be any doubt about the scope of the Policies, the District’s attorneys recently made clear that any student who ‘purposefully refer[s] to another student by using gendered language they know is contrary to the other student’s identity’ will violate the District’s policies and be subject to punishment,” the lawsuit stated. “As a consequence, the children of PDE’s members are forced to alter their speech by remaining silent or avoiding using sex-specific pronouns altogether.”
The school district’s Anti-Harassment Policy and Personal Communication Devices Policy violate the First Amendment and have caused individuals to self-censor out of fear of being punished for expressing their views, the lawsuit alleged.
Moreover, the school district allegedly uses “no contact orders” on students who have been found in violation of district policies, the lawsuit stated. The orders are allegedly administered without a completed investigation into the incident.
Four of the plaintiffs, who are anonymous, are members of PDE and also parents within the school district, and allege they are self-censoring because of the policies, the lawsuit stated.
Fear of retaliation has caused the parents to advise their children to self-censor and not to speak out about their beliefs which oppose gender ideology, the lawsuit alleged. This has allegedly caused physical and emotional harm to the parents.
“Parent B’s constant anxiety that Parent B’s children will be subjected to this harm has, in turn, caused Parent B emotional and psychological harm,” the lawsuit alleged. “For example, it has caused Parent B to question whether to instruct Parent B’s children to follow their conscience and their religious faith or to remain silent and affirm viewpoints contrary to their conscience and faith in order to preserve their opportunities for college, among other things.”
Olentangy Local School District did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.