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California Department of Justice sues school district over forced transgender outing policy

The California Department of Justice is taking the Chino Valley Unified School District to court over its policy that requires schools to inform parents if their child requests to go by a different name or pronouns.

“First, let’s call this policy what it is. It is a forced outing policy,” Attorney General Rob Bonta said Monday as he announced the lawsuit against the Southern California school district.

Bonta said the policy violates the California Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause, the constitutional right to privacy and the California Education Code. His office is seeking a court order to block the policy from being enforced.

The announcement follows a civil rights investigation into the policy, which the school board in Chino Valley approved at its July 20 meeting. The lawsuit is the culmination of that inquiry, he said.

“We have declarations under oath from students, from teachers, testifying that damage has occurred,” the attorney general said.

They include one student, a 17-year-old, who “talked about the immediate emotional and psychological harm” that the school board’s decision had on them, according to Bonta.

Since the July decision, several other Southern California school districts, including districts in Murrieta and Temecula, have followed Chino Valley in adopting or considering similar regulations.

While the lawsuit specifically targets Chino Valley, Bonta said that if other school districts use that same policy, they too are in violation of state law.

Several LGBTQ advocacy groups weighed in Monday in support of the lawsuit, including Equality California and Our Schools USA.

“This policy infringes on the rights and privacy of transgender students and sets a dangerous precedent that can lead to discrimination against others,” said Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang in a statement.

Kristi Hirst, co-founder of Our Schools USA, said that educating children works best when parents and teachers work together to create a safe space for them to learn.

“This policy has done nothing more than make students and parents afraid to return to school, and it’s wrong,” Hirst said in a statement.

The lawsuit announcement comes on the same day that anti-transgender activists and Republican lawmakers are set to unveil a trio of proposed ballot initiatives. They would make the outing transgender students to their parents a state law, bar transgender girls from playing in girls’ sports and block transgender minors from accessing gender-affirming medical care.

Assemblyman Bill Essayli, R-Riverside, who challenged Bonta’s civil rights investigation and who introduced a bill to require schools to out transgender students (that later died without a committee hearing), said Monday that Department of Justice has “declared war on every parent in the state of California.”

“The fact that he is spending taxpayer resources on suing school districts for providing information to parents is remarkable and inconsistent with a century of Supreme Court precedent holding that parents have a constitutional right to raise their children without government interference,” Essayli said in a statement.

The Republican lawmaker said that the Democratic attorney general “will lose in both the court of law and public opinion.”

Another state lawmaker, Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, said in a tweet that outing children to their parents — even if it puts the child at risk of harm — “is dangerous and frankly, despicable.”

“Each of us decides when we come out. It’s no one else’s damn business,” Wiener wrote.