The state of New Jersey is taking Hanover Township Board of Education to court over a new policy for the school to inform parents about the sexual orientation and gender identification of students in the district.
At issue is the Morris County school board’s new policy approved May 16, titled “Parental Notification of Material Circumstances,” that mandates teachers in the K-8 school district to notify parents on a wide range of factors if they are aware of “any facts or circumstances that may have a material impact” on a student’s well being.
The state’s Attorney General’s office filed three motions the following day from the policy going into effect, alleging that the policy enacted by school board violates the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination’s (LAD) prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
In the AG’s complaint, the policy discriminates against students on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression because it targets transgender students and other students who identify as LGBTQ+ and requiring parental notification for LGBTQ+ youth but not their peers.
The complaint goes on to state the parental notification policy has a disparate impact on LGBTQ+ youth, as the policy requires school staff to “out” LGBTQ+ youth to their parents and thus exposing “to severe harms to their safety and mental health.” The policy runs counter to guidance from the New Jersey Department of Education concerning the confidentiality and privacy of such information as well.
Murphy Weighs In
“We will always stand up for the LGBTQ+ community here in New Jersey and look forward to presenting our arguments in court in this matter,” said Attorney General Matt Platkin. “We are extremely proud of the contributions LGBTQ+ students make to our classrooms and our communities, and we remain committed to protecting them from discrimination in our schools.”
Platkin’s office filed an emergency motion in state Superior Court, requesting a preliminary injunction and temporary restraints to prevent the policy from going into effect while the the AG’s Division on Civil Rights challenge to the policy remains pending. The requested injunction is being sought to preserve the status quo and thereby ensure that school staff are not forced to “out” LGBTQ+ youth to their parents while the lawsuit moves through the courts.
Gov. Phil Murphy weighed in with his support for Platkin’s move, tweeting that “Hanover Township Board of Education’s new policy requiring staff to ‘out’ LGBTQ students to their parents violates the rights of our students—jeopardizing their well-being and mental health.”
Full Hanover Policy
But the Hanover Board pledged to fight the actions that have been filed, releasing a press statement asserting the Attorney General’s Office lawsuit is incorrect that the policy targets students on the basis of gender identity, gender expression, and affectional or sexual orientation.
“Simply put, Board Policy 8463 merely requires that staff members ‘say something’ to the parents and appropriate school administrators if they ‘see something’ that could adversely affect the social/emotional well-being of a child,” the board wrote.
Besides the disputed gender and sexual orientation issues, the board’s policy listed what school officials could bring to the attention to parents that includes:
- substance abuse, such as tobacco, vaping and alcohol;
- peer/academic/athletic pressures, including school performance, harassment, intimidation or bullying;
- social issues such as eating disorders, suicide, self-harm, depression, anxiety, isolationism, anti-social behaviors and being social withdrawn;
- unlawful activity, including theft, vandalism, truancy, and gang affiliation;
- violent or aggressive behavior;
- preoccupation with anti-social music;
- sexual activity;
- obsessive compulsive behaviors; and
- familial/cultural challenges
Board Pledges to Fight
“The Hanover Township Board of Education believes that parents need to be fully informed of all material issues that could impact their children so that they —as parents—can provide the proper care and support for their children,” the board said, for the district that includes Cedar Knolls and Whippany. “(We) will vigorously defend this common-sense policy that protects parental rights and ensures the safety of all school children.”
The Attorney General’s office the complaint is not challenging other aspects of the policy, such as the requirements for parental notification related to substance use, alcohol use, firearms, or unlawful activity, but the ones that it believes impugns on the civil rights of LGBTQ+ students.
“Our state civil rights laws are clear: New Jersey does not tolerate discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression,” said Sundeep Iyer, Director of the Division on Civil Rights. “We will continue do everything in our power to enforce the robust protections our laws provide and to ensure that LGBTQ+ youth remain safe in our schools.”
If a teacher or administrator reports to parents on their awareness of a student’s sexual activity, that would constitute an actionable breach of the student’s right to privacy. No matter how old a student is, that does not deprive them of constitutionally protected privacy rights. The AG is going to slam the district on this if they try to use it as part of their defense on broader “just informing parents” grounds.
Why is it at all a school district’s (or anyone else’s) business what sexual orientation a child is, or how they identify? Everyone has a right to privacy, and nobody has a right to “out” anyone for any reason.
The family/parents are often the first and last line of support,care and help for these people. If and when problems arise the counselors, administrators and psychologist third parties are gone and often only the family is there to help. The family should be involved in any decision by a minor, If there is a problem with the family there are ways to deal with it
I don’t really see a problem with most of the stuff but the LGBT stuff is unnecessary. So if a kid in glass has gay parents or is gay themselves, other parents have to know?? Ridiculous.
Am I the only one who remembers what went on some 80-90 years ago, when some men were labelled with the pink triangle and sent (initially) to non-lethal camps, and then to the lethal ones? This is a similar sort of thinking. Let people be themselves, and let them all thrive.
So you believe this is a case where Hanover put this rule in place to ‘out’ a child to their parents? That is not how I read it. What if any sexual issue with a straight or LBGTQ student is causing that student an emotional problem. Shouldn’t the school district alert the parents, or do we just wait until the student harms themself or someone else? Of course if that student harmed themself and the school district didn’t alert the parents, the school district gets sued.
This is a total UG; Like in Ugly!! People must Grow-Up!! AND; IT Mite be, that Too much Edjumacation’s severely impacts some people’s Brain Group!! It’s Good that these individuals be so Identified to desensitize this stigma leading to acceptance!! YO; Here’s a Vision from a Drop-Out: ” It’s imperative that these people become comfortable enough with their newly found orientations, that they be HONEST & disclose this fact Prior to Entering any Associations or’n Serious relationships with the Opposite Sexed.”..The TRUTH-Policy, (will set them Free) & should be taught at School’s to prevent future violences, that may come from Hiding their true Nature!! AND; Law’s must Allow for’n these Frauds, when people masquerade as something they are Not, which couldst lead to their Demise or’n injury to one or’n both!! AND;The only ones that’ll Win here, will be their Lawyor’s!! Yeap; America’s Sinking!!//
Being not-straight or not-cisgender doesn’t negatively affect kids’ social/emotional well-being on its own. The damage to students’ social and emotional health comes from being surrounded by people who think there’s something wrong with being not-straight or not-cisgender.
Schools already inform parents if a child is struggling for any of the non-identity reasons listed (except “anti-social music,” which, hello? The 1980s called and they want their Satanic Panic back). If a parent is supportive, their kid will tell come out to them in their own time. Telling parents without the kid’s permission leaves the kid open to physical, verbal, or emotional abuse if the parents aren’t supportive. And, no, parents do not always know their kids better than other people do.
Also, how on Earth is a kid going to be having familial problems without the family already knowing about it?