Judge issues temporary restraining order over Chino school board policy on transgender notification

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Thursday, September 7, 2023
Judge temporarily blocks Chino schools' policy on trans notification
A judge issued a temporary restraining order on the Chino Valley Unified School District's transgender notification policy.

CHINO, Calif. (KABC) -- A San Bernardino County Superior Court judge on Wednesday issued a temporary restraining order on the Chino Valley Unified School District's transgender notification policy.

The judge's decision blocks the policy from being in effect during a lawsuit that was filed late last month by California Attorney General Rob Bonta.

The policy requires the district's schools to notify parents if their children change their gender identification or pronouns, the latest blow in an intensifying battle between a handful of school districts and the state about the rights of trans kids and their parents.

Most, if not all, LGBTQ+ advocates oppose the policy.

Bonta said policies like the one adopted by Chino Valley Unified School District will forcibly out transgender students and threaten their well-being. But the district's board president and supporters say parents have a right to know the decisions their children are making in schools.

The Chino Valley policy requires schools to notify parents within three days if employees become aware a student is asking to be treated as a gender other than the one listed on official records.

"San Bernardino Superior Court's decision to issue a temporary restraining order rightfully upholds the state rights of our LGBTQ+ student community and protects kids from harm by immediately halting the board's forced outing policy," Bonta said after Wednesday's hearing. "While this fight is far from over, today's ruling takes a significant step towards ensuring the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of transgender and gender-nonconforming students."

California sued the Chino Valley Unified School District over its policy that requires schools to notify parents if their kids change their pronouns.

An extensive number of LGBTQ+ advocacy groups believe schools should be a safe haven. The school district's policy, they believe, invades students' policy.

"Choosing when to come out and to whom is a deeply personal decision that every LGBTQ person has the right to make for themself," Amanda Goad, director of the LGBTQ, Gender & Reproductive Justice Project at the ACLU SoCal, said in a statement. "Like all young people, trans and gender non-conforming youth know what is best for their health and wellbeing. Young people thrive when they have parental support and feel safe sharing their full identities at home. The attorney general's action supports students exploring their identities, including at school, free from pressure and at their own pace."

In California, similar policy proposals are coming from communities that have elected more conservative school board members since the COVID-19 pandemic, putting them increasingly at odds with Gov. Gavin Newsom and fellow Democrats who dominate the state's political leadership.

Among them is Chino Valley Unified President Sonja Shaw, who said the lawsuit was no surprise as state officials have repeatedly taken steps "to shut parents out of their children's lives."

"We will stand our ground and protect our children with all we can because we are not breaking the law," Shaw told the Associated Press in August. "Parents have a constitutional right in the upbringing of their children. Period."

Shaw issued a statement in response to the temporary restraining order that said in part:

"The battle has just begun. Parents, school boards - pay close attention. We can prevail as long as we stand united and strong against this agenda to marginalize parents and separate us further and further from our children. Politicians in Sacramento are not qualified to parent our children."

Attorney Tony DeMarco, who represents the school district, says the policy isn't as broad or overreaching as opponents to it may feel.

"A student who goes to a teacher and says 'I'm confused about my body, I don't feel comfortable with my body, I might want to go by a different name,' - that doesn't trigger a parent notification," DeMarco said. "It's only when that student says 'I want to change my name.'"

The notification policies aren't the only battle between local schools and California officials over LGBTQ policies. Earlier this year, Newsom threatened to fine the Temecula Valley Unified School District after it rejected an elementary school social studies curriculum that included books mentioning politician and gay rights advocate Harvey Milk. The district later reversed course.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.