AG Files Brief Supporting Chico Unified Policy Safeguarding the Constitutional Rights of Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming Students

Special to the Vanguard

Oakland, CA – California Attorney General Rob Bonta on Tuesday became one of 16 AGs who filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in support of Chico Unified School District (CUSD) and its local school district policy safeguarding the privacy and safety of transgender and gender-nonconforming students.

The plaintiff in Regino v. Stanley et al., a parent with children attending school in CUSD, filed a lawsuit challenging CUSD’s Administrative Regulation 5145.3, which limits school staff from unnecessarily disclosing a student’s transgender or gender-nonconforming status without the student’s consent, except when there is a specific and compelling need to protect the student’s physical or mental well-being.

A federal district court granted CUSD’s motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims, and the plaintiff appealed the ruling. In today’s coalition, Attorney General Bonta asserts that the Ninth Circuit should affirm the district court’s decision to dismiss the plaintiff’s challenge to CUSD’s policy, and stresses California’s commitment to ensuring a safe and supportive school environment for all students, including transgender and gender-nonconforming students, by preventing them from being “outed” in situations where they might suffer psychological, emotional, or physical harm.

“While some school districts enact policies that forcibly out transgender and gender-nonconforming students against their will, Chico Unified has sought to safeguard the safety of all students by involving family whenever possible, but honoring the express wishes of students to avoid putting them at risk,” said Attorney General Bonta.

Bonta added, “Today’s amicus brief underscores our support as we continue standing up against any action that targets and compromises the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of our most vulnerable populations. We urge the Ninth Circuit to uphold the district court’s decision to ensure a learning environment of inclusivity, acceptance, and safety for all Chico Unified students.”

In the amicus brief, the coalition argues:

  • CUSD’s policy—and similar longstanding policies enacted across the states—have crafted a careful balance, consistent with substantive due process, to support transgender and gender-nonconforming students and their families by involving families wherever possible, while honoring and encouraging students’ ability to initiate gender identity conversations with their family in the time and manner of their own choosing.
  • Transgender and gender-nonconforming students are vulnerable to abuse, suicide, and other forms of mental and physical harm, because of the very real risk of familial rejection and the lack of access to gender-affirming environments.
  • States have an interest in making schools a safe and supportive environment for all youth, and all students benefit from safe and supportive schools.
  • Policies like CUSD’s help ensure a safe and supportive school environment for all students, including transgender and gender-nonconforming students, as protecting student privacy and trust increases their academic success and lowers students’ risk of missing school, dropping out, or committing suicide.
  • Plaintiff’s interpretation of the constitution is unsupported and would severely undermine schools’ ability to protect transgender and gender-nonconforming students, and the appellate court should uphold the district court’s decision to dismiss the plaintiff’s challenge to CUSD’s Policy.

Attorney General Bonta 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.

In the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 10% of respondents 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. And fewer than one-in-three transgender and gender nonbinary youth found their home to be gender-affirming.

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.

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.

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1 Comment

  1. Walter Shwe

    I unequivocally support our Attorney General’s amicus brief and the Chico Unified School District to ward off this lawsuit challenging the school district’s policy intended to safeguard the privacy and safety of trans and gender-nonconforming students. Human rights is not a matter of opinion!

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