Special to the Vanguard
Oakland, CA – On Tuesday Attorney General Rob Bonta issued guidance addressed to all California superintendents and school board members reminding them that the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the San Bernardino Superior Court on September 6, 2023, against the Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education’s (Board) mandatory gender identity disclosure policy (Policy 5020.1) remains in full force and effect.
The Board’s policy, which is enjoined, was initially adopted in July, and requires schools to inform parents, with minimal exceptions, whenever a student requests to use a name or pronoun different from that on their birth certificate or official records, even without the student’s permission. The policy also requires notification if a student requests to use facilities or participates in programs that don’t align with their sex on official records.
In a recent motion granting a preliminary injunction in Mirabelli v. Olson, the District Court prohibited a different district, the Escondido Union School District, from requiring two teachers to follow a school district regulation regarding parental notification of transgender and gender-nonconforming students based on the plaintiffs’ claims that their religious beliefs prohibited them from doing so. In the guidance, Attorney General Bonta stresses the preliminary ruling has no impact on the TRO against Chino Valley Board’s mandatory gender identity disclosure policy or broader application to similar policies in other school districts.
“My office obtained a temporary restraining order against Chino Valley Unified’s forced outing policy to protect the equal protection, nondiscrimination and privacy rights of transgender and gender-nonconforming students,” said Attorney General Bonta. “By enacting policies that forcibly out students against their own wishes, school districts violate these fundamental protections and risk breaching their obligation to serve these and all students equally. Today’s guidance underscores that the temporary restraining order remains in full force and effect, and my office remains unwaveringly committed to opposing any action that perpetuates discrimination, harassment, or exclusion within our educational institutions. As we continue monitoring school districts considering similar policies statewide, I urge them to prioritize the well-being of the youth they are charged to protect. We look forward to continue fighting our position in court to ensure every student has access to a safe and inclusive learning environment.”
In today’s guidance, Attorney General Bonta reinforces that under:
- California’s Equal Protection Clause: Policy 5020.1’s forced disclosure provisions unlawfully discriminate and single out students who request to identify with or use names or pronouns different from those on their birth certificates, or who access programs or facilities that, in the view of the Board, are not “aligned” with the student’s gender.
- California’s Education and Government Code: California Education Code Sections 200 and 220 and Government Code section 11135 ensure equal rights and opportunities for every student and prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression. Policy 5020.1’s forced disclosure provisions violates these fundamental anti-discrimination protections.
- California’s constitutional right to privacy: California’s constitution expressly protects the right to “privacy,” including “autonomy privacy,” and Policy 5020.1’s mandate to out transgender and gender-nonconforming students against their wishes or without their consent violates that right.
The Attorney General also clarifies that the ruling in Mirabelli v. Olson does not address the legality of the Board’s forced disclosure policy, or similar or identical policies requiring forced disclosure of transgender or gender nonconforming students, under these or other laws.
The Attorney General has a substantial interest in protecting the legal rights, physical safety, and mental health of children in California schools, and in protecting them from trauma, harassment, bullying, and exposure to violence and threats of violence. Research shows that protecting a transgender student’s ability to make choices about how and when to inform others is critical to their well-being, as transgender students are exposed to high levels of harassment and mistreatment at school and in their communities when those environments are not supportive of their gender identity.
- One in 10 respondents in a 2014 Trevor Project survey said that an immediate family member had been violent toward them because they were transgender, and 15% ran away from home or were kicked out of their home because they were transgender. Fewer than one-in-three transgender and gender nonbinary youth found their home to be gender-affirming.
- Nearly 46% of transgender students reported missing at least one day of school in the preceding month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable there and 17% of transgender students reported that they left a K-12 school due to the severity of the harassment they experienced at school.
- Seventy-seven percent of students known or perceived as transgender reported negative experiences such as harassment and assault, and over half of transgender and nonbinary youth reported seriously considering suicide in the past year.