States Sue School Boards Over Parental Rights

First it was New Jersey, and now California: State attorneys general have filed suit against duly elected school boards who have passed policies preventing public school officials (government employees) from keeping secrets from parents about the physical, mental, and social health of the parents’ minor children.

And sadly (especially for attorneys general), they seem to have no idea how out-of-step they are with American law.

Take California, for example. 

This week, California Attorney General Rob Bonta filed a lawsuit against the Chino Valley Unified School District because that elected school board approved a policy in July that requires school officials to inform parents if their child wants to change their gender.

The Parental Rights Foundation holds no position on the issue of gender identity or its proper treatment or response. However, we believe this much is perfectly clear: no government actor should be keeping secrets from parents about the health and welfare of the parent’s minor child.

Unfortunately, Bonta doesn’t get it.

In a press release on Monday, August 28, Bonta is said, “We’re in court challenging Chino Valley Unified’s forced outing policy for wrongfully and unconstitutionally discriminating against and violating the privacy rights of LGBTQ+ students. The forced outing policy wrongfully endangers the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of non-conforming students who lack an accepting environment in the classroom and at home.”

There is so much wrong with his statement that it is hard to know where to begin, but since he mentions the Constitution, we will start there.

According to its Troxell v. Granville decision, “the liberty interest…of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by [the Supreme] Court.” Yet, Bonta clearly isn’t concerned with those rights at all.

Instead, he claims that telling parents what their young children are going through “wrongfully endangers” them. How so?

According to the Supreme Court in Parham v. J.R., “The law’s concept of the family rests on a presumption that parents possess what a child lacks in maturity, experience, and capacity for judgment required for making life’s difficult decisions. More important, historically it has recognized that natural bonds of affection lead parents to act in the best interests of their children.”

Bonta would have us presume the opposite. His position seems to be that “governmental power should supersede parental authority in all cases because some parents abuse and neglect children.” But the Supreme Court (again in Parham) called that very idea a “statist notion that…is repugnant to American tradition.” 

And we agree.

What’s more, so does federal law.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which protects the privacy and confidentiality of a student’s educational records, places parents of minor children squarely inside the bubble of privacy with their child.

FERPA establishes that parents, with their children, are due certain privacy protections of their child’s records. 

Instead, Bonta in California and Attorney General Paula Dow in New Jersey both seek to place school officials inside the bubble and kick the parents out.

Ironically, coming from one claiming unconstitutional discrimination against sexual and gender minority students, Bonta seems particularly focused on robbing only the LGBTQ+ students of the safeguards and wisdom their parents can provide in the face of overreaching government officials.

We believe all children, regardless of their sexual or gender identification, have the right to be protected and defended by their parents who love them.

In this vein, the Supreme Court recognizes that “[m]ost children, even in adolescence, simply are not able to make sound judgments concerning many decisions, including their need for medical care or treatment. Parents can and must make those judgments…. Neither state officials nor federal courts are equipped to review such parental decisions.”

Which is exactly why state or local officials have no business deciding what secrets to keep from a child’s parents, or what treatment a child needs who is struggling with their gender identity.

If Bonta were concerned about the safety of the child more than about the desires of the state, he, too, would want to keep parents involved. 

But involved parents, who care more for their child’s health and well-being than about an imposed social narrative, are just getting in his way. 

And we say, “Good for them. And good for their children!”

Please consider supporting our efforts to keep parents “inside the bubble” where they belong.

Read more of our reasoning on this matter in our amicus brief for Foote v. Ludlow