New Jersey Files Lawsuit Against Three School Districts Over Transgender Notification Policy

The administration of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has filed lawsuits against three school districts for establishing procedures to notify parents when their children exhibit indicators of changing their gender identity.

Attorney General Matt Platkin filed lawsuits against the Manalapan-Englishtown, Marlboro, and Middletown school boards and districts on Wednesday, alleging that the practices violate New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination and endanger transgender students.

“‘Outing’ these students against their will poses serious mental health risks; threatens physical harm to students, including risking increased suicides; decreases the likelihood students will seek support; and shirks the District’s obligation to create a safe and supportive learning environment for all,” the Marlboro complaint is read.

“Indeed, LGBTQ+ students in New Jersey and elsewhere have died by suicide after being outed.”

New Jersey Files Lawsuit Against Three School Districts Over Transgender Notification Policy

The lawsuits, which aim to prevent the districts from enforcing the policy, come as some of the most heated cultural conflicts nationally and in New Jersey are being fought in suburban and rural school districts. Murphy is also a resident of Middletown.

A comparable case was brought by New Jersey last month against the Hanover Board of Education. The two sides are now unable to agree on changing the parental notification policy in the Morris County district.

According to state guidelines, schools “shall ensure” that kids are addressed using the names and pronouns of their choice, are free to dress “in accordance with their gender identity,” and that “parental consent is not required” for the district to recognize the student’s “asserted gender identity.”

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“School policies that single out or target LGBTQ+ youth fly in the face of our State’s longstanding commitment to equality,” The Attorney General’s Division on Civil Rights director, Sundeep Iyer, said.

“Our laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression, plain and simple, and we will not waver in our commitment to enforcing those protections.”

Board members from the districts of Manalapan-Englishtown and Middletown declared that they would reserve their opinions until they had a chance to examine the lawsuits.

The school board’s lawyer in Marlboro, Marc Zitomer, expressed his confidence in the new policy’s ability to balance parents’ and students’ rights.

“We vehemently disagree with Attorney General’s argument that it is somehow discriminatory or improper to notify a parent that their minor child is changing their gender identity or expression,” he stated in an email.

“It is our position that keeping parents in the dark about important issues involving their children is counterintuitive and contrary to well established U.S. Supreme Court case law that says that parents have a constitutional right to direct and control the upbringing of their children.”

The Attorney General’s office claims all three districts’ policies were enacted on June 20. If there is an excellent cause to think that notifying the parents could endanger the student, they each make an exemption.

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Additionally, the policy of Manalapan states that for kindergarten through fifth-grade pupils, “the responsibility for determining a student’s gender identity rests with the student’s parents/guardians.” According to the lawsuit, the policy “presumes that parental notification is warranted in every case.”

It appears that the lawsuits have already taken on political significance. Before the Attorney General’s Office made the litigation public, Monmouth County Republican state Senate candidate Steve Dnistrian used a press release to capitalize on the information.

The 11th District, where Dnistrian is against state senator Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth), is not included in any of the districts.

“When it comes to facing these tough issues, it is better for local school boards, teachers and parents to come together to find a solution that fits their community, but always with parents as part of that discussion,” Dnistrian stated.

“Democrats, however, are insisting that parents not be part of the discussion if kids express questions about being LGBTQ. These heavy-handed, one-sided mandates from Trenton are just wrong.”

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