On Thursday, a panel of conservative U.S. appeals court judges appeared to be in favor of reviving a lawsuit brought forth by a group of parents in Montgomery County, Maryland. The lawsuit challenges the school district’s policy of not disclosing transgender students’ identity to their parents. The policy directs school personnel to help transgender students create a plan to transition, including using preferred pronouns, names, and bathrooms, without notifying parents. The federal judge in Maryland who dismissed the case last August said the parents do not have a fundamental right to be promptly informed of their child’s gender identity.
During the hearing, Circuit Judge Paul Niemeyer emphasized the importance of involving parents in their children’s lives and the significance of the decision to transition. The lawsuit was dismissed last year, but the conservative National Legal Foundation representing the parents anticipates filing more lawsuits challenging school policies barring the disclosure of students’ gender identity.
At least 168 U.S. school districts with more than 3.2 million students have such policies, according to conservative group Parents Defending Education. This case is the first of its kind to reach a U.S. appeals court. Parents have filed lawsuits challenging similar policies adopted by school districts in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Iowa, among other states.
The 4th Circuit is not currently considering the merits of Montgomery County’s policy, but whether the parents can sue over it and have identified a constitutional right that was allegedly violated. The policy was adopted by the county board of education to embrace diversity and ensure that all students feel welcomed, safe, and respected.
The conservative Christian group, National Legal Foundation, has been involved in a series of cases involving LGBTQ rights, abortion, and prayer in schools. The judges on the panel, including appointees of Republican former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Donald Trump, expressed concerns over the policy’s impact on parents’ rights and the students’ secrecy in transitioning.
The decision of the appeals court will have significant implications for the rights of transgender students and their parents in Maryland and other states with similar policies. The debate over how to balance transgender rights and parental involvement in their children’s lives will likely continue as more cases arise across the country.