Judge halts California Chino Valley school district's transgender policy amid state lawsuit

LGBTQ advocates say outing students without consent could put them in danger.

September 6, 2023, 5:02 PM

A California judge has issued a temporary restraining order on what Attorney General Rob Bonta calls Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education’s "forced outing policy." The policy would require schools to inform parents if a student requests to use a name or pronoun different from the gender listed on their official records.

"The concern is how do we safeguard these students that identify as LGBTQ, and in my view, it's a situation that is singling out a class of protected individuals differently than the rest of the students," said Judge Thomas Garza in an oral ruling. He issued the restraining order out of an "abundance of caution."

The ruling comes a week after Attorney General Rob Bonta announced a lawsuit to challenge the enforcement of the policy, which Bonta has said "infringes on several state protections safeguarding students' civil and constitutional rights."

"San Bernardino Superior Court’s decision to issue a temporary restraining order rightfully upholds the state rights of our LGBTQ+ student community and protects kids from harm by immediately halting the board’s forced outing policy," said Bonta in a statement.

He continued, "While this fight is far from over, today’s ruling takes a significant step towards ensuring the physical, mental and emotional well-being of transgender and gender-nonconforming students. As we continue challenging the policy in court, my office will continue providing our unwavering support to ensure every student has the right to learn and thrive in a school environment that promotes safety, privacy and inclusivity."

Chino Valley School board member Sonja Shaw speaks in front of the state Capitol on bills related to LGBTQ school curriculum, Aug. 14, 2023, in Sacramento, Calif.
Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education, which serves about 26,000 students, recently adopted a mandatory gender identity disclosure policy that requires schools to tell parents if a student asks to use a name or pronoun that's different from what is listed on their birth certificate or other official records.

The policy also requires parental notification if a student asks to use facilities or enter programs that don't align with their sex as it is on official records.

A Chino Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) spokesperson told ABC News in a statement that "past and current practices of the district solidify staff's priority to provide all students with a safe and positive educational experience."

They argue "the Parent Notification policy does protect transgender students and takes their safety extremely seriously."

The spokesperson said staff are required to notify child protective services or law enforcement if the student or staff member "believes the student is in danger or has been abused, injured or neglected due to their parent or guardian knowing of their preferred gender identity."

"In these circumstances, CVUSD staff will not notify parents or guardians, but rather, wait for the appropriate agencies to complete their investigations regarding the concerns shared by the student," the statement read.

ABC News has reached back out to the district for comment on the judge's decision.

The Chino Valley school board held public hearings on the policy throughout the summer, garnering protesters from both sides of the issue. Board members also used anti-transgender rhetoric in their arguments in favor of the policy.

"There has always been man and woman, and then you have this transgender, and it is not going to stop there … it is a mental illness," board clerk and member Andrew Cruz said. He also claimed, "women are being erased."

In that same meeting, the board president, Sonja Shaw, also stated that transgender and gender nonbinary individuals needed "non-affirming" parents to "get better."

The policy passed with a 4-1 vote, with member Donald L. Bridge as the sole vote against the policy.

LGBTQ advocates say that forcibly "outing" transgender students could be dangerous for some students, who may not feel safe or supported at home or elsewhere.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta fields questions during a news conference, Aug. 28, 2023, in Los Angeles.
Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Transgender people make up 0.5% of the adult population in California, and 1.93% of teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17, according to research from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Transgender youth are more likely to experience anxiety, depressed moods, and suicidal thoughts and attempts due to gender-related discrimination and stigma, the National Alliance on Mental Illness has found.

Schools with inclusive policies that protect and affirm transgender youth's identity are "associated with positive mental health and academic outcomes," according to research published by the Society for Research in Child Development.

The lawsuit asserts the policy violates California's Constitution and state anti-discrimination laws, including California's Equal Protection Clause, California's Education and Government Code and California's Constitutional Right to Privacy.

Bonta has also condemned several other school districts across the state that have implemented similar gender identity disclosure policies.

The hearing on the attorney general's motion for a preliminary injunction is scheduled for Oct. 13, 2023.

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