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Federal Class Action Lawsuit Could Nullify Parental Secrecy Policies

Lawyers in a federal case against a Southern California school district’s parental secrecy policies have requested to broaden a judge’s ruling to prevent state legislators from banning gender parent notification policies. Should they succeed, bills such as AB 1955, which is on Governor Newsom’s desk to ban gender parent notification policies, would become null and void.

The federal suit was filed last year by Thomas More Society attorneys on behalf of two Escondido teachers, who objected to their school district policy requiring them to hide students’ gender identities from parents. Federal Judge Roger T. Benitez, made an initial ruling last September in their favor stating parents have a constitutional right to direct their child’s, education, health, and upbringing, calling the district’s gender identity secrecy policy a “trifecta of harm.”  Technically, the ruling only applied to these two teachers, though it signaled to all California school districts that secrecy policies violated the US Constitution. However, Attorney General Rob Bonta and State Superintendent Tony Thurmond ignored the federal ruling and threatened school districts across the state with legal action if they informed parents that their children had changed names and pronouns at school.

“Despite the clarity in the law brought by this federal preliminary injunction, Attorney General Rob Bonta has ignored it, and even prosecuted school districts that sought to come into compliance with the reasoning of this court’s order,” Thomas More Society Special Counsel Paul Jonna stated. “In open defiance of the court’s order, state officials have sued or threatened to sue school districts that chose to follow the natural and logical implication of the court’s order. As a result, on behalf of multiple clients that have approached us for legal representation, we now seek to expand the reach of this decision by adding additional teachers, parents, and a school district as plaintiffs in a proposed class action. Our clients hope to put this issue to rest once and for all—by obtaining class-wide relief on behalf of similarly situated teachers, parents, and school districts.”

If the judge approves this request that would require every school in California to eliminate their secrecy policies and prevent AB 1955 from being enforced if Governor Newsom decides to sign it into law. In short, any policy which directs teachers to lie, deceive, or hide information from parents about students’ gender identities and mental health struggles, termed a “Parental Exclusion Policy,” would no longer be legal. 

Lakeside Union School District is joining the lawsuit in hopes the judge will permit them to enact  a gender parental notification policy without incurring adverse legal action by state officials, namely Bonta and California’s Department of Education, who have previously sued other school districts for enacting similar policies. 

Both the parents and teachers who are seeking to join the lawsuit are doing so anonymously based on the severe harassment and retaliation teachers Mirabelli and West faced following the initial lawsuit in 2023. The two sets of parents requesting to join the suit have firsthand experience with how damaging parental exclusion policies can be, as they both have gender-confused children who have been directly harmed by the policy. The teachers are joining the suit because both have religious and moral objections to lying to parents about their children.

“We have fought long and hard against AB 1955 and strongly oppose AG Bonta’s efforts to retaliate against schools for informing parents about their children’s actions at school,” said Vice President of California Family Council Greg Burt. “We are hopeful that this lawsuit will reinforce parental rights and the constitutional protections all teachers have by virtue of their citizenship.”

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