California is suing to stop schools from outing trans kids to their parents

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — State Attorney General Rob Bonta filed a lawsuit today to stop a Southern California school district from outing transgender students to their parents, arguing that the policy violates students’ civil and constitutional rights and could cause them “mental emotional, psychological, and potential physical harm.”

Bonta’s suit against the Chino Valley Unified School District is the latest attempt by Democratic state officials to combat the recent adoption of such policies by conservative school boards. The outcome of the case could have bearing on other districts that have enacted similar rules in the last two months, including Murrieta Valley, Temecula and Anderson Union High School.

“Our message to Chino Valley Unified and all school districts in California is loud and clear: We will never stop fighting for the civil rights of LGBTQ+ students,” Bonta said in a prepared statement.

The policy passed last month by the Chino Valley Unified School Board requires schools to inform parents whenever a student asks to use a different name or pronoun than what’s in their official record, or if a student requests to use facilities or participate in programs that don’t align with their assigned sex. A similar statewide proposal, introduced by Republican Assemblymember Bill Essayli, stalled and has almost no chance of becoming law in the Democratic supermajority Legislature.

Backers have characterized the policy as a “parental rights issue,” but Bonta alleges the board is unlawfully discriminating against transgender and gender-nonbinary students.

“In discussing the policy before its passage, board members made a number of statements describing students who are transgender or gender non-conforming as suffering from a ‘mental illness’ or ‘perversion,’ or as being a threat to the integrity of the nation and the family,” Bonta said in a statement.

Chino Valley and other California school districts in recent years have become the targets of religious conservatives who have recruited and helped elect local candidates in a state where Democrats dominate higher offices.

Sonja Shaw, president of the Chino Valley Unified Board of Education, is the primary backer of the board’s new policy on trans students. Prior to her election in November, Shaw said she was “never involved in any politics” until the pandemic revealed that Sacramento politicians were “pushing perversion on our children in every possible way.”

“To be honest with you, I didn’t even know what the GOP was,” she told a crowd of supporters at the state Capitol last week.

Bonta, in his lawsuit, argues the policy infringes on several state protections, including California’s equal protection clause, the state education and government code, and California’s constitutional right to privacy.

The tensions are likely to continue outside of the courtroom with conservative groups looking to qualify statewide ballot measures relating to schools and the Legislature’s LGBTQ+ caucus prepared to introduce a bill prohibiting such policies.

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