The right-leaning group Parents Defending Education (PDE) has sued the Linn-Mar Community School District of Iowa because its policies protect transgender students from transphobic parents and students. PDE supports banning LGBTQ books and curricula about institutional racism from schools. The organization has also previously partnered with the anti-LGBTQ group Moms for Liberty.
The Linn-Mar Community School District allows students (grades seven and up) to create a “gender support plan.” The plan requires school staff, students, and school documents (including ID cards and yearbooks) to address students by their self-assigned name and gender identity. The policy also allows these students to enter the locker room, bathroom facilities, and sports teams matching their gender identities.
PDE’s lawsuit takes particular issue with part of the policy that withholds details of a student’s gender support plan from a student’s parents, even if they specifically request it. The lawsuit also says that because parents are notified by the school about “lesser matters” like “schoolyard tussles, missing homework, and social events,” the school should notify parents about a kid’s gender identity, otherwise parents won’t be able to properly support their kid.
The lawsuit omits the fact that nearly 50 percent of trans people in the U.S. experienced familial rejection for coming out as trans, something which dramatically increases their likelihood of attempting suicide, becoming addicted to drugs, or experiencing homelessness, according to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey.
“Parents are completely and purposefully left in the dark. The Policy plainly violates parents’ rights under the Fourteenth Amendment,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit also claims that the district’s policies against transphobic speech – like deadnaming and misgendering – are a violation of students’ First Amendment free speech protections because the policies punish them for “expressing their sincerely held beliefs about biological sex.” The lawsuit omits the fact that misgendering is a form of anti-trans harassment banned by most social media platforms.
“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 lawsuit states.
The lawsuit’s true biases become apparent, however, in a section describing the complaining parents being represented by PDE.
One of the parents has a middle-school-aged child on the autism spectrum and worries that their kid’s “difficulty distinguishing between male and female characteristics” will get them placed on a gender support plan, pressuring them to identify as trans or nonbinary even though the child may not have a firm grasp of what these identities entail.
Another parent mentioned in the lawsuit worries that their “extremely impressionable” daughter will follow the lead of LGBTQ-affirming teachers and queer classmates and start identifying as trans or nonbinary.
“Some of Parent B’s daughter’s special-needs classes are held in a classroom that also functions as the meeting location for the LGBT student club,” the lawsuit says. “The teacher in that classroom is the faculty advisor for the club. Thus, the classroom walls contain several posters with information about various gender identities, gender ‘social transitions,’ and ‘referred pronouns.’ Parent B’s daughter is extremely impressionable and often follows the lead of other students.”
The lawsuit mentions “research” showing that more teens are identifying as trans due to peer pressure, but it doesn’t actually mention which research it’s referring to. A recent study suggested that worries like this are completely unfounded.
Two other parents represented by PDE say they basically want their kids to be able to misgender and openly disagree with the gender identities of trans kids without facing any consequences. Yet another parent said they didn’t want their kid to be exposed to the acknowledgment of trans people because it will cause the parent “emotional and psychological suffering.”
The lawsuit seeks to block the district’s Gender Support Plan from going into effect, essentially eliminating the district’s support of trans youth, something that will worsen mental health outcomes for trans students in the name of “free speech” and constitutional freedoms.