Win for Bonta as judge blocks Chino Valley school district's forced outing policy

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday September 6, 2023
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California Attorney General Rob Bonta. Photo: AP file
California Attorney General Rob Bonta. Photo: AP file

A San Bernardino Superior Court judge has issued a temporary restraining order halting a California school district from implementing its policy to out transgender and nonbinary students without their consent.

The decision by Judge Tom Garza was a win for state Attorney General Rob Bonta, who had filed a lawsuit against the Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education last month. The district's board adopted a policy in July on a 4-1 vote that parents will be informed when a student requests names or pronouns be used other than those listed on their official records.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond had been at that dramatic meeting; he was escorted out when he spoke against the policy proposal, championed by Chino Valley Unified Board President Sonja Shaw.

"We're going to safeguard parental rights," Shaw said at that time. "We're going to make sure that our parents at Chino Valley know they're sending their kids here to be taught, not to be anything else."

The policy also requires that parents be notified when students request facilities or programs that don't align with their sex on official records.

Bonta previously said that he would fight the Chino Valley school board's decision to adopt the policy.

"We're in court challenging Chino Valley Unified's forced outing policy for wrongfully and unconstitutionally discriminating against and violating the privacy rights of LGBTQ+ students," Bonta, a longtime straight ally, stated at the time. "The forced outing policy wrongfully endangers the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of non-conforming students who lack an accepting environment in the classroom and at home. Our message to Chino Valley Unified and all school districts in California is loud and clear: We will never stop fighting for the civil rights of LGBTQ+ students."

Bonta alleged in the lawsuit the policy was in violation of three areas of state law: first, the state's equal protection clause, which Bonta said was violated by the new policy singling out those whose gender identity doesn't align with the official documents; second, the state's education and government codes on the same basis; and third, the state constitution's right to privacy.

The court ordered that enforcement of the policy be halted September 6, issuing a TRO in an oral ruling, according to a news release from Bonta's office.

"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," Bonta stated. "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."

A further hearing, on Bonta's request for a preliminary injunction — which would preserve the TRO until the case is adjudicated — is set for October 13.

The San Bernardino-area district's director of communications stated to the B.A.R. that the staff will abide by the court order.

"Today's ruling will not deter District or school site personnel from focusing on offering our young scholars a superior educational experience while fostering a nurturing environment where robust student achievement is accomplished," director of communications Andi Johnston stated after the initial online publication of this report. "Working alongside our families, District leadership celebrates the efforts undertaken by staff to constructively impact the bright futures of our CVUSD scholars. The District will continue to encourage parents, guardians, and all community partners to remain united in assisting and supporting our youth."

Shaw told the B.A.R. that "the battle has just begun."

"Parents, this is the inflection point in history where we have the opportunity to stand up to the government bullies in the political cartel and let them know we have rights over our children. Nobody sends their kids to school in hopes that the school will keep secrets from them; we send our school kids to school to be educated. We have a sacred duty, responsibility and constitutional rights over our children," she stated. "They picked the wrong parents to fight with. These are our children and we love them and we care for them and we are not a danger to them and we will make sure that is known and we will show our children that we will not be submissive to unlawful ways to shut us out."

Three other California school boards — Temecula Valley, Murrieta Valley, and Anderson Union High School District — have adopted similar forced outing policies, though so far, Bonta has not filed lawsuits in those cases. Those school boards adopted their policies in August. Bonta has issued statements critical of the copycat policies.

Updated, 9/6/23: This article has been updated with comments from the Chino Valley school board president and district spokesperson.

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