Judge blocks controversial Chino Valley school policy targeting transgender students

Thursday, October 19, 2023
CHINO, Calif. (KABC) -- A San Bernardino County superior court judge has blocked a controversial Chino Valley Unified School District policy that opponents said was forcing teachers to out transgender students to their parents.

Judge Michael Sachs granted a preliminary injunction against the district in a downtown San Bernardino courtroom Thursday afternoon. He said most of the policy appears to be unconstitutional, because it specifically targets the transgender community.

"This policy is discriminatory on its face," Sachs said. "The district did not consider any gender-neutral alternatives."

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"Before voting to enact the policy, board members described students who are transgender or gender non-conforming as suffering from a mental illness," Sachs said during the hearing.

"That same board member further likened the issues related to gender identity to a death culture and claimed that the policy was needed because 'women are being erased.'"

Emily Rae, an attorney with the Liberty Justice Center that's representing the Chino Valley Unified School District in the lawsuit filed by California Attorney General Rob Bonta, argued that parents' rights trump any right to privacy claimed by children.

"Parents are the legal guardians of the children, not the government," Rae said. "Schools cannot keep secrets from parents about important health related information concerning their children."

But Deputy Attorney General Delbert Tran said that outing transgender students to their parents before they're ready could have devastating consequences.

"Research shows that one in 10 transgender individuals have experienced violence from household members," Tran said. "Individuals who experience parental rejection are eight times more likely to attempt suicide."

The Chino Valley Unified School District's Board of Education approved Policy 5020.1 by a 4-1 vote during a heated public meeting on July 20.

The parental notification policy has three main provisions: part 1(a) required parental notifications to be made if a student requested to use a name or pronoun that didn't align with their biological sex; part 1(b) required parental notifications if a student accessed sex-segregated activities or bathrooms that didn't align with their biological sex; part 1(c) required parental notifications if a student requested to change any information in official or unofficial records.

The judge's order blocks the first two provisions of the policy but will allow the last one to remain. Both sides will be back in court in February, as the matter heads closer to a potential trial.

"I'm actually appreciative that the judge took as much time and heard the arguments as he did," said board president Sonia Shaw, who authored the board policy and was in court for the hearing.

"That goes a long way, because we knew today was just going to be the beginning."

However, advocates in the LGBTQ community were also pleased with the judge's decision, because it appeared to gut the heart of the board policy that they said illegally targeted transgender students.

"The things that were struck down were noted as being unconstitutional and that's the thing, we have to protect our youth," said Jon Paul with the Rainbow Pride Youth Alliance.

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