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Legal expert weighs in on conflicting rulings on transgender notification policies

Rear view of large group of school kids raising their hands to answer the teacher's question on a class at elementary school. Focus is on middle row.
skynesher/Getty Images
Rear view of large group of school kids raising their hands to answer the teacher's question on a class at elementary school. Focus is on middle row.


HOST: Chino Valley Unified School District’s transgender notification policy heads back to Superior Court in San Bernardino tomorrow. The policy requires teachers to tell parents if their child identifies as transgender at school. The California Attorney General’s office argues that violates student’s constitutional rights and wants the court to continue to prevent the policy from being enforced until there’s a ruling. Meanwhile, parents and teachers have sued in other districts where they say not notifying parents violates their rights. Christy Mallory is the legal director at UCLA’s Williams Institute, that focuses on LGBTQ issues. KVCR’s Madison Aument asked her to walk us through the court battles over these policies and the conflicting rulings… starting with Chino…

CHRISTY MALLORY: So the Attorney General of California is arguing that the policy violates student's rights to equal protection and privacy under the California constitution and also violate state laws that prohibit discrimination in education. Then we see two other cases and these are both challenges to policies that prohibit teachers from outing transgender students to their parents, in one of these cases, parents, argued that the policies violate their federal constitutional rights and to their parental rights to raise their children as they see fit. The judge actually held that the policy does not violate those constitutional rights of parents. And so that protective policy can be enforced as is. We saw another challenge actually brought by teachers. The teachers argued that a policy prohibiting them from outing transgender students to their parents violated their First Amendment rights. In that case, the judge held that the policies likely did violate teacher's rights. So that policy is currently not enforceable, but only those who object on religious grounds.

MADISON AUMENT: The Attorney General has only challenged Chino’s policy in court but do you know what teachers in districts like Temecula and Murrieta are supposed to do when the district says enforce it, but then state policy and the courts say not to?

MALLORY: So when a policy is enacted, if it had if that policy hasn't been challenged, or there's not a higher court ruling that would apply to the policy, the teachers and schools will have to enforce it. That, will become clearer as these cases get appealed up to higher courts, and we have about better understanding of how these policies should be applied statewide, based on that guidance.

AUMENT: How do you expect these various challenges to play out legally?

It's so early, and this is such a new issue, that there's not much to go on to kind of make a conclusion about what will happen. I just want to highlight that California is not the only place where this is happening. We're seeing similar litigation across the country. And we're seeing similar patterns in terms of different interpretations and rulings by courts. We’ve already seen in Kansas and Maryland. So I think it will kind of depend on the litigation not only here, but across the country as it percolates through the legal system. And it could be that we don't have a definitive ruling on these issues until it actually reaches the US Supreme Court.

HOST: That’s Christy Mallory with UCLA’s Williams Institute speaking with KVCR’s Madison Aument.