The Marlboro Board of Education on Tuesday adopted a policy of parental notification regarding transgender students.
Posted Thu, Jun 22, 2023 at 11:41 am ET|
The same action is being taken against the Manalapan-Englishtown Regional Board of Education that adopted a similar policy, also on Tuesday.
Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced Thursday the filing of Division on Civil Rights complaints challenging what it termed "unlawful policies" enacted this week by the Manalapan-Englishtown Regional, Marlboro and Middletown Boards of Education.
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The policy enacted by the Marlboro Board of Education provides that the school district is required to notify parents or guardians of any student’s “change in gender identity or expression.”
It also eliminates the requirement under prior Marlboro policy that the school address students by their preferred name and pronoun; the new policy now permits the district to deviate from a student’s preferred name and pronoun when “a parent/guardian of a minor student disagrees with the student regarding the name and/or pronoun to be used at school.”
The new policy eliminates the requirement under prior Marlboro policy that all students are entitled to access school facilities in accordance with their gender identity, the state says.
Platkin and the Division of Civil Rights have also filed emergency motions in Superior Court, requesting preliminary injunctions and temporary restraints to prevent all three of the policies from going into effect while DCR’s challenges to the policies remain pending.
The meeting Tuesday was attended by many people opposed to the policy but also had supporters of the parental notification policy. You can read about the meeting - and the Manalapan-Englishtown board meeting - here. There are links in the story to the full policy.
The state action alleges that all three of the policies violate the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination’s prohibition against discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression.
As the complaints assert, the policies enacted by the Middletown, Marlboro, and Manalapan-Englishtown Boards "expressly target transgender, gender non-conforming, and gender non-binary students by singling them out for differential treatment, requiring parental notification for those students but not their peers," the Attorney General's office says.
The complaints also assert that the parental notification policies have "disparate impacts on transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary youth."
"By imposing a requirement that school staff must 'out' these students to their parents, the policies expose these students to the potential for severe harms to their safety and mental health. The policies also disregard and contradict guidance from the New Jersey Department of Education concerning the confidentiality and privacy of such information," the office says.
“In New Jersey, we will not tolerate any action by schools that threatens the health and safety of our young people. Without question, the discriminatory policies passed by these Boards of Education, if allowed to go into effect, will harm our kids and pose severe risk to their safety,” said Platkin. “Simply put, these policies violate our laws, and we will not relent in protecting our LGBTQ+ community—especially our children—from discrimination.”
In addition to filing administrative civil rights complaints, the state is seeking temporary restraints and preliminary injunctions from the Superior Court to prohibit the Boards from implementing the policies while the administrative complaints are pending.
The requested injunctions from the court would preserve the status quo during the litigation and thereby ensure that school officials are not forced to “out” transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary students to their parents while the administrative complaints are pending, the state says.
The requested injunctions would not prevent school staff from notifying parents about concerns unrelated to Law Against Discrimination-protected characteristics, nor would they prevent school staff from complying with Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying (HIB) policies, or other similar reporting requirements designed to protect students’ safety.
“School policies that single out or target LGBTQ+ youth fly in the face of our State’s longstanding commitment to equality,” said Sundeep Iyer, Director of the Division on Civil Rights. “Our laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression, plain and simple, and we will not waver in our commitment to enforcing those protections.”
The policies challenged today were all enacted on Tuesday, June 20.
In the policy enacted by the Manalapan-Englishtown Regional Board of Education, when a student “requests a public social transition accommodation,” the school must “notify a student’s parents or guardian of the student’s asserted gender identity.” It also states that for “students in grades Pre-K through 5,” the “responsibility for determining a student’s gender identity rests with the student’s parents/guardians,” rather than with the student.
The policy enacted by the Middletown Board of Education provides that where a student “requests a public social transition accommodation,” such as a name or pronoun change, a bathroom or locker room accommodation, or club or sports accommodation, the school is obligated to “notify a student’s parents or guardian” of the student’s “asserted gender identity.”
The transgender policies of the three Monmouth County school districts directly defies the NJ Department of Education's own policy on transgender students, which says parents do not have to be informed of what their child does in school regarding gender.
The enforcement actions announced today follows a civil rights complaint and application for temporary restraints filed by Attorney General Platkin and DCR challenging a Hanover Township Board of Education policy that likewise required school staff to out LGBTQ+ students to their parents. The litigation challenging that policy remains pending. The Superior Court, however, has temporarily restrained the Hanover Township Board of Education and the school district from enforcing that policy while it considers the matter.
the Division of Civil Rights is the state agency responsible for preventing and eliminating discrimination and bias-based harassment in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation (e.g., places open to the public like schools, businesses, hospitals, etc.).
Local Editor Carly Baldwin contributed to this report.
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