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Parents Cannot Challenge School Policy Keeping Students’ Gender Transitions a Secret, Court Rules

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

On Monday, a federal court ruled that a a group of parents could not challenge a Maryland school district’s policy keeping parents in the dark about their children’s gender transitions.


The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that three parents in the Montgomery County, Maryland school district could not challenge the policy. According to NBC News, this was due to the fact that the parents had not alleged their children were transgender in the first place (via NBC News):

The policy, which the Montgomery County Board of Education adopted for the 2020-2021 school year, permitted schools to develop gender support plans for students to ensure they “feel comfortable expressing their gender identity.”

The policy directs school personnel to help transgender and gender-nonconforming students create a plan that addresses their preferred pronouns, names and bathrooms, and bars staff from informing parents of those plans without a student’s consent.

Lawsuits are pending challenging similar policies in other states. The Maryland case was the first to be argued before a federal appeals court.

The judges’ decision points out that children of the parents who brought forward the challenge do not have gender support plans (via United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit):

The parents have not alleged that their children have gender support plans, are transgender or are even struggling with issues of gender identity. As a result, they have not alleged facts that the Montgomery County public schools have any information about their children that is currently being withheld or that there is a substantial risk information will be withheld in the future. Thus, under the Constitution, they have not alleged the type of injury required to show standing. 

Absent an injury that creates standing, federal courts lack the power to address the parents’ objections to the Guidelines. That does not mean their objections are invalid. In fact, they may be quite persuasive. But, by failing to allege any injury to themselves, the parents’ opposition to the Parental Preclusion Policy reflects a policy disagreement. And policy disagreements should be addressed to elected policymakers at the ballot box, not to unelected judges in the courthouse. So, we remand to the district court to dismiss the case for lack of standing.


Frederick Claybrook, a lawyer for the parents, said: “Parents do not have to wait until they find out that damage has been done in secret before they may complain.”

Earlier this month, Townhall covered how parental rights organization Parents Defending Education found that a public school district in Indiana created a “gender support plan” for students who believe they are transgender. 

Some school districts across the United States have taken it further. Last month, Townhall covered how PDE found that Seattle Public Schools’ School Based Health Centers offer middle and high school students access to certain types of gender mutilation care, including referrals for irreversible surgeries.

In addition, Townhall has covered how school districts in Colorado, Virginia, Kansas, and California have been exposed for concealing students’ “gender transitions” from parents. In May, a school district in Ohio was exposed for instructing teachers to report child abuse to protective services if a “transgender” student’s parents are not supportive of their gender identity. And, in New York, guidance issued by the state’s education department instructed school officials to keep a student’s gender transition concealed from their parents if the student does not give the school consent to inform them. And, Daily Mail uncovered that dozens of teachers in the Midwest gathered on a Zoom call to discuss helping students who identify as “transgender” keep it a secret from parents. 


On the other hand, two school districts in California have adopted policies protecting parental rights. These policies would require school staff to inform parents if their child’s “gender identity” is different from their biological sex. Once these policies were rolled out, Democratic California Attorney General Rob Bonta launched a civil rights investigation into one of the school districts.

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