Trans ‘Outing’ Policies In IE Public Schools: State Extends Crackdown

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The message from Attorney General Rob Bonta is that there are significant legal risks associated with copycat policies.

INLAND EMPIRE, CA — Two weeks after the Murrieta Valley Unified School District announced it would not enforce its policy requiring that parents be notified if their children identify as transgender, California Attorney General Rob Bonta has — again — set wheels in motion that could prevent another Inland Empire school district from ever enforcing the same policy.

If Bonta wins his argument in court, it will further signal to California public school districts the significant legal risks associated with copycat policies.

On Wednesday, the attorney general filed a motion for final judgment in Bonta v. Chino Valley Unified School District. The motion seeks to ensure that the CVUSD Board of Education never reinstates its recently-rescinded “outing policy.”

The policy adopted in July required that CVUSD officials inform parents/guardians, with minimal exceptions, whenever students request to use names or pronouns different from those on their birth certificates or official records. It further instructed that parents/guardians be notified if students access programs, activities and/or facilities that do not align with their official records. Both the MVUSD and Temecula Valley Unified School District adopted copycat policies that set off a firestorm of controversy in the Southwest Riverside County region.

In August, Bonta sued to challenge the CVUSD policy on the basis that it violated students’ civil and constitutional rights under California law. In October, he obtained a preliminary injunction that temporarily halted the policy. In his oral ruling from the bench, San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Michael Sachs found the main provisions of the CVUSD policy are unconstitutional because they violate the Equal Protection Clause of California’s Constitution and discriminate against transgender and gender nonconforming students.

In Wednesday’s motion, the attorney general urged the court to issue a final judgment in Bonta v. Chino Valley Unified School District “because a live controversy exists, as the District’s conduct signals that it could re-adopt the discriminatory policy absent a final ruling by the Court … .”

The motion asserts that the motivation behind the CVUSD policy was to “create and harbor animosity, discrimination, and prejudice towards transgender and gender-nonconforming students, without any compelling reason to do so … .”

During the passage of the policy last year, CVUSD board members did make statements describing transgender and nonconforming students as suffering from “mental illness” or “perversion” who need help to “get better.”

In the MVUSD, Bonta and the California Department of Education pressured the district to halt its policy. In an April 10 letter, the CDE ordered the district to rescind the policy that was approved by the school board in a 3-2 vote last August and reaffirmed this year.

Following an investigation, the CDE determined the MVUSD policy was illegal under state law because it singled out and adversely impacted one group of students. According to the CDE, the policy offered no educational or administrative purpose that could justify the discrimination.

On April 12, MVUSD officials notified district families that the policy would not be enforced.

In addition to Chino Valley, Murrieta Valley and Temecula Valley USDs, school districts in Orange and Placer counties adopted copycat policies.

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