A ruling issued Friday by New Jersey Superior Court Judge David F. Bauman has temporarily blocked three school districts from implementing policies requiring educators to inform parents if their child opts to transition genders at school. This move, while heralded by some as a protective measure for transgender and nonbinary students, raises questions about parental rights and their fundamental roles in the lives of their children.
New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin’s lawsuit against the Middletown Township, Marlboro Township and Manalapan-Englishtown Regional school districts is at the heart of the controversy. Those school boards had previously passed resolutions requiring educators to inform parents if their child expressed the desire to change genders.
This is how #WeThePeople lose all respect for the law.
If your child in school hurts themself on the playing field, the parents are notified. But NJ State will sue the school if they notify the parents that little Timmy wants to wear a dress and be called Tiffany. https://t.co/nomLlFBTCx
— Μολὼν Λαβέ (@M0L0NL4BE) August 19, 2023
The rationale behind these policies was rooted in the belief that parents should play an essential part in major decisions regarding their children’s lives. Yet, Bauman’s ruling sides with the state, which believes that such policies could adversely impact the students in question.
Bauman’s opinion emphasizes that there’s “a reasonable probability of success on its claim that the Amended Policies if implemented, will have a disparate impact on transgender, gender nonconforming, and nonbinary youth.” This perspective brings to the fore a pressing issue — the balance between protecting student rights and acknowledging parents’ fundamental rights in their children’s upbringing.
The New Jersey saga is not unique. Across the nation, school boards are making decisions on similar policies. For instance, in a slim 3-2 vote, the Murrieta Valley School Board in California recently decided to inform parents if their child initiates a gender transition. The move faced immediate scrutiny from California’s Democratic Attorney General Rob Bonta.
Supporters of these policies, like Marc Zitomer, the attorney for the Marlboro school board, express profound disappointment in the New Jersey ruling. Zitomer emphasizes the challenging position schools now find themselves in, saying that “the school district is now severely constrained in its ability to notify parents about important issues involving their minor children, which is quite concerning on many levels.”
Zitomer’s sentiment underscores the broader issue at play. The debate isn’t merely about school policies or gender transitions. It’s about the essence of parental rights in our modern society. It’s about parents’ fundamental human right to be integrally involved in their children’s major life decisions.
While Platkin asserts that the State has “always respected the rights of parents” and that they “can both keep parents informed about their children’s development and protect the civil rights of our most vulnerable students,” the latest ruling seems to challenge that notion. If schools are barred from notifying parents about such profound changes in their children’s lives, can we genuinely say we’re striking a balance between students’ civil rights and parents’ rights?