Respect Diversity + Inclusion

Iowa school district sued over transgender student policy

The group Parents Defending Education has accused a policy adopted by the Linn-Mar Community School District of violating the constitutional rights of students.
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Story at a glance

  • An Iowa school district was sued this week over its adoption of a policy designed to protect transgender students through the development of “gender support plans.”

  • The group suing the school district, Parents Defending Education, has said the policy infringes on the First and 14th Amendment rights of students, as well as their parents’ right to make decisions about their child’s education and health.

  • The district’s policy allows students to work with faculty to create a gender support plan, which may or may not involve their family.

A parental rights group is suing an Iowa school district over its adoption of a new policy designed to support transgender students, alleging the policy violates the constitutional rights of students and excludes parents from important conversations about their children’s gender identity.

The group Parents Defending Education (PDE) on Tuesday filed a complaint in federal court against the Linn-Mar Community School District in eastern Iowa arguing that a policy adopted by school board members in April violates students’ First and 14th Amendment rights.

Under the district policy in question, transgender students may use school facilities like restrooms or locker rooms consistent with their gender identity and should be identified by faculty and staff using their preferred names and pronouns.

Students may meet at any time with a school counselor or administrator to develop a “gender support plan,” according to the policy. A meeting with school staff will be held within 10 school days of a student’s request for support, and the student may choose whether or not they want their parents to be in attendance.

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According to the policy, students in the seventh grade or higher will have priority of their gender support plan “over their parent [or] guardian.” Information about a student’s support plan will be kept in the student’s temporary records, which are not accessible to parents.

The school district under the new policy is also not required to disclose a transgender student’s gender identity to their parents.

The complaint filed Tuesday claims the policy authorizes children “to make fundamentally important decisions about their gender identity without any parental involvement and to then hide these decisions from parents.”

The suit also alleges that the policy violates the First Amendment rights of students and faculty by requiring them to use a transgender student’s correct pronouns. An “intentional” or “persistent” refusal to do so constitutes a violation of district anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies, as well Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination.

“Nearly a century of Supreme Court precedent makes two things clear: parents 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 complaint states, accusing the school district of “flouting both of these constitutional guarantees” by adopting the policy.

In a news release announcing the lawsuit, PDE said it had asked the court to declare that the district’s policy violates the First Amendment and the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

“Linn-Mar’s gender policy demonstrates a deep contempt for the constitutional rights of its students and families,” PDE President Nicole Neily said in a statement, adding that the group is “proud to fight on behalf of our members to put a stop to these unconstitutional policies.”

The Linn-Mar Community School District did not respond to Changing America’s request for comment.