By Chrissy Clark
Several teachers and parents are suing a Virginia school district for a policy that allegedly forces educators to affirm a student’s gender identity without informing parents, according to the lawsuit.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is representing the six individuals over allegations that the Harrisonburg City Public School Board is “usurping parents’ rights” by forcing school staff to affirm the school board’s view of gender identity. The lawsuit claims that staff members are required to call students by their preferred pronouns upon a student’s request.
“Upon a child’s request, school district policy requires staff to immediately begin using opposite-sex pronouns and forbids staff from sharing information with parents about their child’s request, instead instructing staff to mislead and deceive parents,” the Alliance Defending Freedom claims in a press release.
Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter on behalf of parents and teachers to the district in January, telling the board that its policy was unconstitutional. According to an ADF press release, the district proceeded to update its “Gender Transition Action Plan” by clarifying that students’ families will be involved when educators and counselors deem it “appropriate.”
Senior Counsel Ryan Bangert argued that the practice is deceptive and ignores the important role of parents in a child’s life.
“Parents — not public schools or government officials — have the fundamental right to direct the upbringing, care, and education of their children,” Bangert said. “Teachers and staff cannot willfully hide kids’ mental health information from their parents, especially as some of the decisions children are making at school have potentially life-altering ramifications. As the clients we represent believe, a teacher’s role is to support, not supplant, the role of the parent.”
TODAY: Parents and teachers sue Harrisonburg City Public School Board for usurping parents’ right to direct the upbringing of their children and forcing staff to violate religious beliefs by affirming the board’s view on gender identity.https://t.co/btLiK8qWPA
— Alliance Defending Freedom (@ADFLegal) June 4, 2022
The litigation argues on behalf of teachers that educators’ religious beliefs and convictions “about gender and honesty” are being infringed upon. (RELATED: School Staff Reportedly Told To Share Students’ Gender Transition With Private Company, Not Parents)
“Those requirements violate teachers’ state-constitutional rights by compelling speech with which teachers strongly disagree … and simultaneously restricting their speech by forcing them to withhold medical information from parents,” the lawsuit reads.
Harrison City Public Schools denies that their policies encourage employees to conceal gender identity concerns with parents, according to a statement. The district said it is “dismayed” that a lawsuit was filed “in lieu of the collaborative approach we invite and take to address specific needs or concerns.”
In a response letter to Alliance Defending Freedom in January, the district claimed that students who ask to use a different pronoun or name are referred to a school counselor.
“Student requests to use a different pronoun or name are to be first referred to a school counselor,” the letter reads. “The school counselor then works with the student and ultimately convenes a team consisting of school staff and administration, the student’s family, and other school partners, as needed on a case-by-case basis, to support the student.”