SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The state attorney general on Monday sued a California school district that passed a policy forcing schools to out transgender students to their parents regardless of whether the child wants them to know.
In a lawsuit filed Monday morning in San Bernardino County Superior Court against the Chino Valley Unified School District, Attorney General Rob Bonta argued that exposing this information about students – even to their parents – violates state laws protecting civil rights, including a right to privacy. The lawsuit also alleges that the policy is discriminatory and can cause "imminent harm."
"Every student has the right to learn and thrive in a school environment that promotes safety, privacy and inclusivity – regardless of their gender identity," Bonta said in a statement. "We’re in court challenging Chino Valley’s forced outing policy for wrongfully and unconstitutionally discriminating against and violating the privacy rights of LGBTQ+ students."
Bonta's lawsuit comes after the Chino Valley Unified school board vote in July, where state Superintendent Tony Thurmond got kicked out of the meeting after speaking on behalf the LGBTQ students and against the Chino Valley policy.
The policy requires schools to inform parents, with minimal exceptions, whenever a student requests to use a name or pronoun different from that on their birth certificate or official records, even without the student’s permission.
Bonta's suit alleges that the school board’s policy has already placed transgender and gender-nonconforming students in danger of imminent, irreparable harm from the consequences of forced disclosures.
"These students are currently under threat of being outed to their parents against their will, and many fear that the district’s policy will force them to make a choice: either ‘walk back’ their constitutionally and statutorily protected rights to gender identity and gender expression, or face the risk of emotional, physical, and psychological harm," a statement from the AG's office states.
The board’s policy "unlawfully discriminates" against trans and gender non-binary students, subjecting them to harassment, including mental, emotional, and even physical abuse, the statement continues.
Bonta's lawsuit also asserts that Chino Valley School Board's motivations in adopting the policy was "to create and harbor animosity, discrimination, and prejudice" towards trans and gender-nonconforming students, "without any compelling reason to do so, as evidenced by statements made during the board’s hearing."
Before the policy was passed, school board members described trans students as suffering from a "mental illness" or "perversion", or as being a threat to the integrity of the nation and the family.
Board president Sonja Shaw went so far as to state that transgender and gender nonbinary individuals needed "non-affirming" parental actions so that they could "get better," the suits states.
At the July meeting, Shaw said that she felt Thurmond was a danger to our students. He continues to push things that pervert children, and he continues to push out parents and bring in policies that create division between families."
On Monday, Shaw didn't back down, lashing out at the government in Sacramento.
"I’m not surprised at the aggressive stance Sacramento is taking against the district for daring to question motives and agendas that don’t sit well with parents and families fighting to keep themselves involved in the life’s of children," Shaw told KTVU. "Once again, this is government overreach and the political cartel of Bonta, Newsom and Thurmond is using their muscle and taxpayer dollars to shut parents out of their children’s lives."
She added that she had to learn about the lawsuit from reporters.
According to Shaw, Bonta "can’t even site [sic] a law we are breaking in the documents and I find it a joke. He knows better and this is another ploy to stop all the districts around California from adopting a common sense legal policy."
She said that the district will "stand our ground and protect our children with all we can because we are not breaking the law. Parents have a constitutional right in the upbringing of their children. Period. Bring it."
The Chino Valley School Board also issued a statement, saying that th school district was not notified of the lawsuit until after the media began reporting on it. The school board is working with its legal counsel to review the lawsuit.
"The parent notification policy does protect transgender students by requiring staff to notify CPS/law enforcement if the student believes they are in danger or have been abused, injured, or neglected due to their parent or guardian knowing of their preferred gender identity," the statement reads. "In these circumstances, CVUSD staff will not notify parents or guardians, but rather, wait for the appropriate agencies to complete their investigations regarding the concerns shared by the student."