A federal appeals court threw out a Maryland lawsuit Aug. 14 from parents challenging guidelines barring teachers from notifying parents if a student identifies as transgender. In New Jersey, a case is under consideration by a judge after the state government objected to three Monmouth County school districts implementing new policies requiring school staff to notify parents in such cases.
In New Jersey, school boards in Middletown, Manalapan-Englishtown and Marlboro recently approved policies requiring school staff to notify parents of any change to their child's gender identity or expression. The administration of New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, a Catholic, sued the districts over the policy.
At a hearing in Monmouth County Aug. 15, supporters of the policies argued that parents have the right to know about such changes in their child's life if they take place in the classroom. Opponents argued that transgender students have a right to privacy, and the policy forces them to "out" children, or reveal their sexuality or self-professed gender identity, who may have a difficult home life.
Marc Zitomer, an attorney for the Marlboro Board of Education, said at the hearing that "we don't believe in keeping secrets from parents," NJ Spotlight News reported.
Deputy Attorney General James Michael argued that "we do not oppose and strongly affirm parental rights," but said such rights must be balanced with a student's right to safety.
The New Jersey judge issued a preliminary injunction Aug. 18 temporarily blocking enforcement of the school's policies regarding transgender students while the case proceeds.
In a statement the same day, Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin praised the decision, arguing, "We can both keep parents informed about their children's development and protect the civil rights of our most vulnerable students. Our laws require nothing less."
The same week a Maryland case was thrown out after a federal judge determined that the parents who brought the suit lacked standing to do so as their children were not directly impacted.
The ruling by a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, based in Richmond, Virginia, did not address the merits of the guidelines by Montgomery County Public Schools or the parents' arguments, instead finding that the parents involved lacked standing to bring the case, as their children were not found to be transgender or otherwise struggling with gender identity. The panel therefore sent the case back to the lower court to be dismissed.
Judge A. Marvin Quattlebaum Jr. wrote in his opinion that action does not render the parents' objections "invalid."
"In fact, they may be quite persuasive," he said. "But, by failing to show any injury to themselves, the parents' opposition … reflects a policy disagreement. And policy disagreements should be addressed to elected policymakers at the ballot box, not to unelected judges in the courthouse."
In a statement to The Washington Post, Montgomery County schools spokesman Chris Cram said the appellate court returned the case to the District Court where it would be dismissed.
"The case is resolved for now," the statement said. "MCPS supports the determination by the court today."
The National Legal Foundation, which represented the Maryland parents, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from OSV News.
Policies governing transgender students have become controversial of late. Nearly two dozen states have enacted bans on student athletes participating on sports teams corresponding with their chosen gender identity rather than biological sex, while other states have moved to ensure such participation. States where local debates have ensued over such policies include Virginia, where Fairfax County Public Schools and Arlington County Schools have declined to follow the Virginia Board of Education's Model Policies on Transgender and Non-Binary Students under the administration of Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican.
In guidance on health care policy and practices released March 20, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Doctrine opposed interventions that "involve the use of surgical or chemical techniques that aim to exchange the sex characteristics of a patient's body for those of the opposite sex or for simulations thereof."
"Any technological intervention that does not accord with the fundamental order of the human person as a unity of body and soul, including the sexual difference inscribed in the body, ultimately does not help but, rather, harms the human person," the document states.
Several Catholic dioceses have begun forming pastoral approaches to gender dysphoria, particularly for students in Catholic schools. The Diocese of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for instance, issued guidelines in 2022 for transgender-identifying youth, directing diocesan schools to demonstrate "conformity with the student's biological sex as determined from conception and manifest at birth and at the time of the student's enrollment."