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Parents Defending Education (PDE), an activist group, has filed suit against Linn-Mar Community School District in Iowa after it adopted a policy that requires school staff to develop gender transition plans for students without parental knowledge or consent, claiming that the policy violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as Iowa state law.
Linn-Mar’s school board adopted a controversial policy in April that requires school staff to create Gender Support Plans for students. The policy also allows students to use the bathroom according to their chosen gender identity, play on sports teams according to their gender identity, and room with students on trips according to their gender identity. Students and staff are also required to use the name and pronouns a student chooses. Those who refuse could face punishment.
Parents Defending Education filed suit against the policy last week. The suit alleges that the school district’s policy states that any child in seventh grade or higher who expresses uncertainty about their gender or a desire to change genders is to be given a Gender Support Plan and that the student has priority over parents, meaning that the school staff member is only to inform parents if the student says they want their parents to know. Under the new policy, officials must place the plan in the student’s temporary file, hiding it from parents, even though schools are required by law to allow parents to view all information in their child’s permanent file.
Citing numerous court cases, the plaintiffs’ suit argues that parents have the constitutional right to guide the raising of their child.
The suit also claims that the policy violates the First Amendment rights of students who object to using transgender names and pronouns, thus affirming something they believe to be false.
The lawsuit states,
“The policy deprives parents of their right to know what actions the District is taking with regards to fundamentally important decisions about their children. … It is impossible for parents to direct the ‘care, custody, and control of their children’ when the government withholds critical information from them.”
PDE President Nicole Neily added,
“Rather than focusing on reading, writing, and arithmetic, LMCSD is encouraging students to lead double lives beginning in seventh grade, keeping major life secrets from their loved ones while giving the false impression that their family members will not love or support them. It’s hard to imagine a more destructive policy enacted in the name of ‘safety’ than this — which is why it is so important to fight this policy here and now.”
After the board passed this policy, school board President Brittania Morey wrote, “It is important to note while this policy is a new policy, it does NOT establish new procedures.”
Is that supposed to comfort parents? What that tells parents is that while they know now their children will be forced to share bathrooms and overnight accommodations with the opposite sex and that the school is actively hiding critical information about their child from them, the school was already doing all of those thigs without an official policy and without their knowledge.
An issue as critical as a child’s gender identity is not something for school officials to hide from parents, nor is it the school’s place to encourage a child to reject the sex they were born as in favor of their chosen gender.
It is time for parents to stop pretending that this isn’t happening in their school district. These types of policies are being put in place by schools in various states, even in deeply conservative ones, and parents need to assume it is likely happening in their district as well.
One thing is clear: School boards and administrators probably won’t voluntarily tell parents about the school’s transgender policy. Thus, if you are a parent of a child in the public school system, you must do whatever is necessary to know your school’s actual policies on transgender students and fight for transparency. You need to be at every school board meeting. You need to meet with your child’s teachers and principal. And you need to team up with other parents and parents’ rights organizations to amplify your voice.
It has been established beyond any reasonable discussion that parents have the constitutional and moral right to have stewardship and the final say over their child’s education and well-being. In Stanley v. Illinois, the Supreme Court ruled that parental rights are rooted in the “historical” recognition that “natural bonds of affection lead parents to act in the best interests of their children.” The Court also ruled in the 1925 case of Pierce v. Society of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus & Mary that the right “raise one’s children” has been “deemed ‘essential’ and one of the basic civil rights of man.’” And in Meyer v. Nebraska, the Court held that he “liberty” protected by the Fourteenth Amendment includes the right of parents to “establish a home and bring up children” and “to control the education of their own.”
The Bible is just as explicit about the sacred bond between parent and child. Psalm 127:3 says that “Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him.” What’s more, the Fifth Commandment tells children to honor their mother and father. To honor someone, among many things, means to always be truthful and transparent. Through these policies, school boards are encouraging and enabling children to lie to their parents, causing the child to sin, and gravely damaging the trust between children and their parents. What’s more, by forcing other children to state the preferred pronouns and preferred genders of their peers, the schools are mandating that children engage in deceptive speech and actions in order to avoid punishment, including suspension and expulsion.
It is increasingly clear that schools are now more beholden to a radical, divisive ideology than they are to their moral and legal responsibility to parents to do right by the children entrusted to their care. Hopefully, PDE will prevail in this lawsuit, but parents must wake up and recognize the fact that a growing number of schools are no longer working with them to further the best interests of their children — but are actively working against them.
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.