Judge bans school district from muzzling teachers on students' gender transitions
Two years after ruling against California's assault-weapons ban, Judge Roger Benitez blocks enforcement of policy against teacher-plaintiffs that prevents them from telling parents when their children identify as the opposite sex.
A federal judge best known for overturning California's decades-old assault-weapons ban in 2021, a decision immediately stayed by the 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals but returned to his court for reconsideration by the Supreme Court, is now making waves on schools, free speech and gender identity.
U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez issued a preliminary injunction that prevents California's Escondido Union School District from enforcing its gender identity disclosure policy against teachers Elizabeth Mirabelli and Lori Ann West or taking "adverse employment actions" against them.
The policy, known as AR 5145.3, requires "school-wide recognition of a student’s newly expressed gender identification" and "enforced requirement of faculty confidentiality and non-disclosure regarding a student’s newly expressed gender identification" when communicating with parents, according to the teachers' lawsuit.
Muzzling teachers this way commits a "trifecta of harm," Benitez wrote. "It harms the child who needs parental guidance and possibly mental health intervention to determine if the incongruence is organic or whether it is the result of bullying, peer pressure, or a fleeting impulse," denies parents their 14th Amendment rights, and forces Mirabelli and West to violate their religious beliefs by hiding information "they feel is critical for the welfare of their students."
The judge said the policy falls hardest on families in "middle or lower socio-economic circumstances" who can't easily move their children into private school, homeschool or public school districts without such a policy.
"For these parents, the new policy appears to undermine their own constitutional rights while it conflicts with knowledgeable medical opinion," Benitez wrote.
"Almost every school district in California – and many in other states – has a parental secrecy policy," California lawyer Laura Powell, who is not involved in this case, wrote on X. She urged California followers to support the ballot-initiative effort by Protect Kids California to require public schools to notify parents within three days when their children adopt a gender identity at odds with sex.