New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin filed three new lawsuits challenging board of education policies requiring school staff to notify parents of gender identity or expression of students.
Platkin’s office field administrative complaints and motions for preliminary injunctions on June 22 that allege that the school’s policies violate the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination’s prohibition against discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression.
The orders of seeking to stop the “unlawful policies” were filed after approval by the Middletown Township, Marlboro Township, and Manalapan-Englishtown Regional Boards of Education earlier this week. At issue are the requirements for school staff to notify parents of the gender identity or expression of transgender, gender non-conforming, and gender non-binary students.
Targeting LGBTQ+ Students
In their filing, the AG’s office contends the policies enacted by the Middletown, Marlboro, and Manalapan-Englishtown boards expressly target transgender, gender non-conforming, and gender non-binary students by singling them out for differential treatment, requiring parental notification for those students but not their peers.
“In New Jersey, we will not tolerate any action by schools that threatens the health and safety of our young people. Without question, the discriminatory policies passed by these Boards of Education, if allowed to go into effect, will harm our kids and pose severe risk to their safety,” said Platkin in a press statement. “Simply put, these policies violate our laws, and we will not relent in protecting our LGBTQ+ community—especially our children—from discrimination.”
The three lawsuits are just the latest battle between parental right groups that have won control of school boards after the pandemic and those seeking to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ students.
The first lawsuit by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office was filed against the Hanover Board of Education in May concerning the school district’s policy that the Murphy Administration claims would put LGBTQ+ kids at risk of being outed without their consent. Despite revisions that took out specific examples to a more generic description of when school officials should inform behaviors that are concerning, the state has continued pursuing the case in court.
The new policy states that “all staff members…and administrators shall take necessary steps—after first notifying and consulting with an appropriate school administrator (e.g., the Principal and/or his/her designee)—to promptly inform a student’s parent(s) whenever a student discloses an issue and/or exhibits behaviors that may have an adverse impact on the student’s physical and/or mental health, safety and or social/emotional well-being.”
The lawsuits are happening at the same time as controversy erupted over a lawn sign and the flying of a flag for Pride month in the Westwood Regional School District.
After a heated board of education meeting—that included police having to be called to breakup a physical confrontation—where groups expressed opposite view on the issues and conservative conservative media figure James O’Keefe said he would supply teachers and students with cameras to exposed “corruption, lies, abuse that exist in the public schools throughout Bergen County,” Superintendent Jill Mortimer clarified school policy going forward that prohibits signs not associated with school activities.
Mortimer wrote in a letter to the school community, “Pride lawn signs, and any other sign not associated with school activities, will not be allowed on the grounds of Westwood Regional School District….Signs that should be outside the buildings are signs that advertise or relate to school events, student-related, (and) non-profit organizations such as town recreation programs and Boy and Girl Scouts.”
As for flags, Mortimer offered she personally believes only the American and state flags should be flown above school buildings, a decision that is based on a legal opinion provided by the school board’s attorney as well.