116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
A parents group is suing the Linn-Mar Community School District, superintendent and board members over its new policies to protect transgender students from discrimination. The lawsuit asserts that the policy violates parents’ rights to consent and students’ rights to express a different opinion.
Parents Defending Education is identified in the lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court as a grassroots organization that includes “parents, students and other concerned citizens” with a mission to prevent the “politicization of K-12 education.”
The group contends the Linn-Mar policy passed in April allows children to make fundamentally important decisions about gender identity without parental involvement and hide those decisions from their parents.
According to the 30-page petition, the parents group filed it to “protect parents’ rights to raise their children and students’ rights to freedom of expression.”
The suit identifies Superintendent Shannon Bisgard and members of the board — Brittania Morey, Clark Weaver, Barry Buchholz, Sondra Nelson, Matt Rollinger, Melissa Walker and Rachel Wall — as defendants.
The parents organization is represented in the suit by Alan Ostergren, a former Muscatine County prosecutor who now is president and chief counsel for the Kirkwood Institute in Des Moines, a conservative public-interest law firm focusing on economic and property rights, constitutional governance and separation of powers.
Linn-Mar district officials didn’t immediately respond to an email and phone message seeking comment.
The policies were debated in April by Linn-Mar school board members, and passed in a 5-2 vote. Buchholz and Rollinger were opposed. Bisgard previously said the policies would not change any practice the district has been following for more than five years.
The policies were intended to allow students to advocate for themselves, feel comfortable at school, receive support from staff and work with staff and families to create a plan to help students succeed, according to district officials.
The policies spell out inclusive practices for transgender students and protect students’ privacy by keeping their transgender status private at school, if they prefer.
Any student in seventh grade or older will have priority over their parent or guardian of a gender support plan, according to the policies.
The petition also contends students can create a “gender support plan” to assist in their gender transition. This plan allows the district to require all employees and students to address the child by a new name and have the new name on government documents, including yearbooks and diplomas and new pronoun; allows students to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with gender identity; allow students to participate in gym classes, intramural sports, clubs and other events that correspond to gender identity; and allow students to room with other students who share same gender identity.
“These actions can happen without any knowledge or input from the child’s parents,” the lawsuit states.
The district will withhold this information even if parents specifically request it, the petition states. Under the policy, the district will not tell parents if their child has asked for the gender support plan or whether the child had made requests regarding gender identity.
“Parents are completely and purposely left in the dark,” according to the suit. “The policy plainly violates parents’ rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.”
The parents group also asserts the policy violates students’ First Amendment rights because it “punishes” students who express their beliefs about biological sex and “compels” them to uphold the beliefs of administrators and their classmates. The policy prohibits speech that doesn’t “respect a student’s gender identity and misgendering.”
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