Usually, school systems treat lawsuits like poison ivy. Lawyers are expensive, and the costs of losing a case can be enormous. Thus, when a board of education is willing to defend its position in court, something fundamental is at stake.
That was the case in New Hampshire when the Manchester School District stood by its decision to conceal some students’ “gender identities” from their parents. In so doing, the state places its stamp of approval on the delusion that a boy can become a girl and vice versa.
Recent articles in the New York Daily News and NH Journal describe a lawsuit brought by a parent that challenges the school’s policies about students who experience “transgender ideation.” In its defense, the Manchester School District argues that it has no duty to tell parents about their children’s “preferred pronouns” and “gender identities.”
Although couched in legal terms, the District’s response is akin to a young child shouting, “You can’t make me!”
“[T]his motion can be easily resolved by answering one discrete question: Do school districts have a legally enforceable duty to inform parents when a student uses a name or gender pronoun different than that assigned at birth? Because the answer to this question is no, the Complaint should be dismissed.
“Whatever the scope of a parent’s rights vis-a-vis their transgender or gender-nonconforming children, they do not include the right to force a school district to act as a conduit for the parent’s exercise of those rights in this fashion” (Emphasis in the original).
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Why is the school system so adamant? Why do they conceal this critical information? Are these students so ashamed of their intentions that they cannot explain them to their parents?
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The activists claim these young people are in danger of angering their parents, who might physically abuse them or eject them from their homes. In rare cases, some parents have abused their child after he or she decided to identify as “transgender,” but it is not the norm. These rare cases are insufficient reasons for the school system to usurp the most natural and universal relationship in the world—that of parent and child.
When a child is about to make a huge mistake, the appropriate parental response is to discuss the situation and advise the child to take a different path. Parents also have the right and duty to withhold permission on major decisions affecting the lives of those committed to their care. Failure to do so can be classified as negligence.
Flawed and Fictitious Arguments
The Daily News made another categorical statement in support of the school system’s position.
“The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects young people’s private medical information—including whether students are transgender.”
That statement contains a fatal philosophical error. The idea of being “under age” denotes that children cannot independently make important decisions. Left to their own devices, many children would eat chocolate instead of a nutritious supper. Many teenagers with new drivers’ licenses would be easy prey for unscrupulous car dealers. Examples that substantiate this view are endless.
Pretending the FERPA Law Supports Their Agenda
However, the Daily News’s statement has a more fundamental flaw. It is factually false. FERPA does have provisions to protect the privacy of personal medical information. However, none of those provisions apply to the relationship between parents and minor children. In fact, FERPA specifically defends parents’ ability to obtain such information from schools.
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The law itself—20 U.S. Code § 1232g (a) (1) (A)—states, “No funds shall be made available under any applicable program to any educational agency or institution which has a policy of denying, or which effectively prevents, the parents of students who are or have been in attendance at a school of such agency or at such institution, as the case may be, the right to inspect and review the education records of their children.”
Nor can a school claim that a student’s medical information is not part of “education records.” A school is not a medical institution. Any information that a school has on students are educational records by their very nature.
An Important U.S. District Court Ruling for Parents
On May 9, 2022, U.S. District Court Judge Holly L. Teeter explained in the case of Ricard v. USD 475 Geary County:
“FERPA does not exempt from its disclosure obligation education records that deal with preferred names and pronouns. Thus, the District’s contemporaneous justification for adopting the policy is predicated on an erroneous understanding of the law. And the District’s statement to parents that “’FERPA guidelines’ prevented the District from disclosing the preferred name and pronoun information without a child’s permission was misleading. The District could not have a legitimate, compelling interest in withholding information based on FERPA when FERPA in fact required the District to disclose the very information at issue.” (Emphasis added.)
Judge Teeter may not have the last word. The District could appeal to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and, potentially, to the Supreme Court. However, given the clear language of the law, a different outcome is unlikely. In the meantime, Judge Teeter’s words may convince school administrators that parents will contest the school system’s false assertions.
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Even so, schools love to throw around the FERPA name because it intimidates uninformed parents. Without the proper information, the deceptive statement, “We would like to tell you, but the FERPA law forbids us to do so,” carries significant weight for these uninformed parents.
Bureaucracies strive to build stone walls around their actions. In this case, the stones may look formidable at first glance, but they are paper-thin. The tiniest bit of pressure makes the fortress fall like a house of cards.
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