116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
So the battle over Linn-Mar’s efforts to support transgender students is headed to federal court.
Parents Defending Education, a national organization “working to reclaim our schools from activists imposing harmful agendas,” according to its website, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court on behalf of seven parents living in the district. Linn-Mar has a middle school and high school enrollment of more than 3,300 students.
The parents aren’t named in the petition filed this week because they fear “retaliation” against their kids by Linn-Mar staff, students, parents and the community.
Parents Defending Education makes its living intervening in local school disputes across the country. Also on its website you’ll find a map with red markers identifying problem school districts, titled “IndoctriNation.” Now it’s arrived in my corner of Marion to save us from the scourge of making public schools safe spaces for transgender kids to learn. A “sinister agenda,” perhaps.
The lawsuit (embedded below) argues the district’s use of gender support plans violates parents’ constitutional rights because they’re not informed about the plan unless the student says it’s OK. It also argues that provisions in the district’s transgender support policies requiring students and staff to use the name and pronouns preferred by a transgender student violates the First Amendment rights of students who don’t believe being transgender is a real thing.
Unlike Florida, this would be a “Don’t Say They” rule.
“The Policy authorizes children to make fundamentally important decisions concerning their gender identity without any parental involvement and to then hide these decisions from their parents,” the lawsuit argues.
Parent “A” has a child on the autism spectrum, Parent B has a special-needs child and Parent C, who believes “gender dysphoria” is unlikely to “persist past adolescence” has a child in a friend group with several LGBTQ students. They each fear Linn-Mar will create a gender support plan for their student and not inform them. The petition argues autistic and special needs kids are more likely to identify as transgender or nonbinary than other students.
Parent D’s child believes “that people are either male or female” and cannot transition from one gender to the other. Same with parents E, F and G. They don’t want their kids forced to use pronouns and names that go against their beliefs. The suit notes these kids have “no ill-will” toward LGBTQ students.
The parents want an injunction barring Linn-Mar from enforcing its policy. The lead lawyer representing them is Alan Ostergren, who you might remember represented the Trump campaign when it sued “rogue” auditors in 2020 for sending out filled in absentee ballot request forms. He also led the legal charge to knock Democrat Abby Finkenaur off the U.S. Senate ballot.
Reading the petition reveals a troubling thread that runs throughout its 30 pages.
Being transgender is a problem.
It’s a problem for parents who fear their kids might question their gender identity. It’s a problem for parents and students who can’t accept the reality of being transgender. It’s a problem for students who refuse to respect fellow students by using their names and pronouns. But it’s an opportunity for conservative groups like Parents Defending Education to stoke outrage for political gain.
What about the rights of transgender students, protected under the Iowa Civil Rights Code and federal rules? The lawsuit makes no mention. Maybe they have the right to remain silent.
It quotes Erica Anderson, a transgender psychologist who opposes allowing students to keep their gender identity confidential. She said school districts routinely inform parents of lesser matters “such as playground tussles” and “missing homework.” But being a transgender student isn’t a broken rule, a bad grade or some sort of infraction.
Telling students to not harass and denigrate their fellow transgender students in a way that’s “repeated and intentional,” as the Linn-Mar policy states, is not a crackdown on free speech. What if a student believes, deeply, that his classmates of color are here to replace white people, as conservatives such as Tucker Carlson claim? Does that student have a right to persistently and intentionally harass those students? Speech is free, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be consequences.
The lawsuit cites the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District. But in that case, students wore black arm bands to silently protest the Vietnam War. They didn’t repeatedly and intentionally bully fellow students.
If students who can’t accept the reality of being transgender have rights, why don’t transgender students have a right to ask the school district not to inform their parents? They certainly know their home situation better than school officials. Why put kids at risk against their will? The district is confronting difficult situations that shouting “parents’ rights!” won’t solve.
Gender support plans are not some kind of punishment or scarlet letter. As the name implies, they offer support. No one is required to seek one. And even if transgender students don’t ask for a plan, the supports remain in place for them. Why would parents not want their kids supported at school?
Instead of marching into court, why not simply just support and respect transgender students? Let’s allow them to go to a school where they can feel safe. Stop throwing them to the wolves attacking our public schools, slapping “pornography” labels on LGBTQ books and targeting students’ rights. Stop trying to further marginalize already marginalized kids.
This isn’t about your fears, beliefs, discomforts or politics. It’s about their lives.
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