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ACLU Sues Virginia Over School Guidelines Supporting ‘Rights of Parents’ over Trans Agenda

February 20, 2024

One of the most notorious liberal legal organizations has sued a Republican administration for “focusing on the rights of parents” instead of the agenda of transgender activists in its restroom, sports, and parental notification policies. In one case, the plaintiffs argue a trans-identifying special education student dissolved into a bout of “shakiness” after a teacher refused to call the male teen by a female first name, because the teacher “objected to [his] very existence.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed two lawsuits against the Virginia Department of Education over guidelines protecting girls’ privacy, female athletics, and parental rights in the state’s public schools. “Schools shall respect parents’ values and beliefs,” say the guidelines, which were finalized last July 18 and subsequently enacted by numerous school districts. They forbid school officials from facilitating a child’s gender transition behind parents’ backs, and bar males from female sports, showers, and locker rooms. The ACLU has filed two lawsuits to pry open the restroom door by repealing the 2023 guidance, suing in the names of two students in Hanover and York counties.

The ACLU complains Youngkin’s guidelines “focus not on the rights of students, but of parents.”

“The ACLU has become just another sexual disorder defense fund. The idea that children ruining their developing minds and bodies with so-called ‘sex change’ treatments is a ‘civil liberty’ is revolting,” Meg Kilgannon, senior fellow for Education Studies at Family Research Council, told The Washington Stand.

A Breakthrough for Parents’ Rights

Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) won the 2021 election over former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe with a promise to give parents a greater voice in education. Following his election, Youngkin reversed policies imposed by then-Governor Ralph Northam (D), who ordered every school in the Old Dominion to become a “school community that affirms LGBTQ+ students.” Youngkin unveiled the revised “Model Policies on Ensuring Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools” in September 2022.

“Parents have the right to instill and nurture values and beliefs for their own children and make decisions concerning their children’s education and upbringing in accordance with their customs, faith, and family culture,” say the guidelines. “Parents are in the best position” to determine “what names, nicknames, and/or pronouns” their children use at school, and “whether their child engages in any counseling or social transition at school.”

Overnight travel accommodations, locker rooms, and other intimate spaces used for school-related activities and events shall be based on sex,” say the guidelines. They protect women’s sports, noting that participation in athletics “shall be determined by sex rather than gender or gender identity.”

The model policies bar school districts from seeking to “encourage or instruct teachers to conceal material information about a student from the student’s parent, including information related to gender” — unless a student alleges “the reason for being at imminent risk of suicide relates to parental abuse or neglect,” in which case the employee must “notify the local department of social services” (as required by Code of Virginia § 22.1-272.1).

The guidelines also protect conscience rights by saying the district cannot force teachers, school “personnel, or other students to address or refer to students in any manner that would violate their constitutionally protected rights.”

ACLU Lawsuits: ‘Shaky’ Kids and Thwarted Male Athletes

The ACLU filed two lawsuits, one over the fact that a teacher refused to call a student by a preferred name, and another on behalf of a male who wanted to compete against female athletes.

The first lawsuit concerns “Jane Doe,” a special education high school student in York County. When the student insisted one of his teachers call him by the first name of the opposite sex, the teacher used only the student’s last name.

“Understanding that [his] teacher objected to [his] very existence, would refuse to treat [him] with respect in the classroom, and would continue to single [him] out from other students in the way [he] was addressed, [p]laintiff was extremely upset.” The student “ignored” the teacher’s calls not to leave the classroom and marched off to the special education room.

Not forcing one teacher to use his preferred trans name caused the student “mental distress and physical symptoms, including shakiness,” states the ACLU’s legal filing. “Using affirming names and pronouns is a critical first step to supporting transgender and nonbinary students” and “contributes to a positive school climate.” The school’s principal later told the student’s mother “that she was unable to discipline the teacher or force the teacher to use [p]laintiff’s affirming name,” and that if the student cannot endure the teacher’s views, the student could drop the class.

The second lawsuit revolves around “Lily Loe,” a male middle school student who identifies as a female in Hanover County. The school board voted against allowing him to participate in “practices or matches” on a female sports team and later adopted a policy basing restroom and locker room use, and sports competition, on sex rather than gender identity. The ACLU concedes his parents “were able to find a private competitive program in the same sport, affiliated with the national governing body for that sport,” which allowed the boy to compete as a girl. The legal filing makes muted and inexact references to the student’s suffering, claiming only that the child’s parents are “concerned” the plaintiff “is suffering emotional and psychological trauma.”

Both lawsuits claim, “The 2023 Model Policies exceed their statutory authority in focusing on the rights of parents,” and “conflict with the Virginia Constitution’s prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex.”

“The biological male kept from playing girls sports in Hanover may not appreciate the decision of the school to protect its girls from unsafe and unfair competition, but poll after poll show that Virginians support this policy,” Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, told The Washington Stand. A poll taken last October found 67% of Virginians says schools should have to notify parents if their children identify as another gender at school, 65% oppose allowing trans-identifying people to compete against the opposite sex in sports, and 53% oppose opening the restroom door to members of the opposite sex.

Female Protections Triggered by Sexual Assaults, Human Trafficking

The revised model policies were triggered by disturbing cases of sexual assault and human trafficking. Most notably, a teenage boy wearing a skirt raped and attempted to sodomize a 15-year-old girl inside a restroom at Stone Bridge High School on May 28, 2021. The assault took place as Loudoun County (Virginia) Public Schools, in the D.C. suburbs, planned to adopt Policy 8040, which opened school restrooms to transgender-identifying members of the opposite sex.

Then-superintendent Scott Ziegler (who later publicly wore painted nails and earrings) denied that any assault had taken place, leading to his prosecution. Another effort — Sage’s Law, introduced by Delegate David LaRock (R-Berryville) — was named for a 14-year-old Virginia girl sexually assaulted in a boys’ high school bathroom after the school hid her gender transition from her parents. The teen endured multiple bouts of sexual trafficking and legally separated from her parents. The law bars state schools from hiding gender-identity transitions from parents.

“Now that stories like the one for whom Sage’s Law is named [and] girls whose gender confusion was hidden from their parents to their great detriment are surfacing, Governor Youngkin’s effort to include parents in the discussions and guidelines on how schools handle transgender students has proven to be spot on,” Cobb told TWS.

Girls have the right “to be in private spaces without having biological boys there, and we know that it’s important from the sexual assault situation that happened in Loudoun County,” said Cobb.

ACLU attorney Breanna Diaz, described as “a queer, Latinx woman” who participates in power lifting, claimed that Virginia schools have the “legal and moral obligation” to let men use girls’ restrooms, showers, and changing facilities.

The ACLU pressures every level of government, leveraging fear of litigation to enact radical social policies, according to experts. “The lawsuit is easily visible, but they do other work behind the scenes to undermine children and parents by sending threatening letters to school boards, superintendents, principals, and coaches promising to sue them if they don’t go along with the transgender agenda,” said Kilgannon. “The ACLU works full time to crush (to use a term coined by Noam Chomsky) ‘the threat of a good example,’ or any dissent from their sexually dangerous and progressive agenda.”

At the time, Virginia Democrats directed their vitriol against the newly-adopted female safety measures. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) tweeted that not furnishing males access to schoolgirls’ intimate facilities constitutes “a despicable display of bigotry and ignorance from the man who ran for office on the false promise of protecting Virginia students.”

In addition to the legal Left, the Hanover case is supported by such liberal pressure groups as the local chapter of the NAACP, Equality Virginia, and the Jewish Community Federation. NAACP branch president Pat Jordan boasted the groups are “working with an intersectionality of everybody coming together … because we’re all really fighting for the same things,” especially “equity,” or unequal treatment of equal behavior. 

A total of 1,058 school districts nationwide have officially adopted a policy not to inform parents about their children’s gender identity transition, according to Parents Defending Education, including 12 school districts in the state of Virginia:

The Virginia lawsuits were filed by Wyatt Rolla and Geri M. Greenspan of the ACLU Foundation of Virginia; and Andrew J. Ewalt, Meghan E.F. Rissmiller, Jennifer B. Loeb, and Ross C. Svenson from the D.C. office of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, a global law behemoth based in London with 29 offices from Abu Dhabi to Vienna.

Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.