Court: Maryland parents lack standing in parental rights lawsuit over trans student policy

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A federal appeals court has thrown out a parental rights lawsuit over a Maryland school district’s policy that allows teachers to withhold information about a student’s transgender identity from his or her parents.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled 2-1 on Monday that the parents lacked standing to sue the Montgomery County Board of Education because the parents never alleged that their children had identified as transgender or that the school district was keeping information away from the parents named in the lawsuit. The ruling found that the parents could not show any injury.

“Absent an injury that creates standing, federal courts lack the power to address the parents’ objections to the guidelines,” Judge A. Marvin Quattlebaum wrote in the majority opinion.

Quattlebaum acknowledged that the parents made “compelling arguments” about the policy itself but could not demonstrate a current injury, an impending injury, or a substantial risk of future injury. The decision did not determine whether the policy itself is constitutional or legal but only that the parents in the lawsuit did not have grounds to sue.

“That does not mean their objections are invalid,” the opinion continued. “In fact, they may be quite persuasive. But, by failing to allege any injury to themselves, the parents’ opposition to the Parental Preclusion Policy reflects a policy disagreement. And policy disagreements should be addressed to elected policymakers at the ballot box, not to unelected judges in the courthouse.”

The policy states that the principal or a designee will work with the transgender student to develop a plan to ensure the student has equal access and opportunity to participate in programs and activities without any gender-based discrimination. The policy states that the school should ascertain the support from home before contacting parents and can withhold information from the parents if the student does not have support from home or believes he or she will not receive support.

Judge Paul V. Niemeyer dissented from the majority opinion and argued that the parents had standing because their children are still subject to the policy in question.

“[The board] preempts the issue to the exclusion of parents with the adoption of its [guidelines], which invite all students in the Montgomery County public schools to engage in gender transition plans with school principals without the knowledge and consent of their parents,” Niemeyer said.

Frederick Claybrook, an attorney representing the three unnamed parents who filed the lawsuit, said they are considering next steps, according to the Washington Post.

The attorney said the parents agreed with the dissenting judge’s opinion that the policy would allow schools to keep secrets from parents about their children, violating parents’ rights, the Post reported.

This is not the only policy pitting school officials against parents in the Montgomery County school district. Muslim, Catholic, and Ethiopian Orthodox parents sued the school recently to demand that they restore the parental opt-out option for coursework that promotes homosexuality, transgenderism, and other aspects of gender ideology.

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