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Missouri AG Sues School Board for Hiding Trans Bathroom Policy from Parents

October 19, 2023

Missouri’s attorney general is suing a school board for hiding a controversial transgender bathroom policy from parents. The Wentzville School District’s Board of Education allegedly hid its deliberations on instituting a new transgender bathroom policy to avoid input and outrage from parents, according to Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s (R) office.

After one school board member said that the bathroom policy decision was “not the parents’ business,” two other board members came forward as whistleblowers, prompting a series of complaints filed with Bailey’s office. Deliberations over the policy were reportedly conducted behind closed doors, which is, according to Bailey’s office, “in direct violation of Missouri’s Open Meetings Law.” The attorney general has filed a lawsuit against the school board.

Speaking to The Washington Stand, Bailey stated, “As a father of four, I’m especially passionate about parents’ ability to direct their children’s education. Missourians do not co-parent with the government. I am doing everything in my power to ensure parents aren’t left in the dark about who is in the bathroom with their children.”

According to the lawsuit and the testimony of whistleblowers, the Wentzville school board closed a June 14 meeting to the public in order to discuss a “legal memo” concerning “transgender students and restroom usage.” At a subsequent meeting, the school district’s attorney presented a policy proposal to allow students identifying as transgender to use opposite-sex bathrooms. That proposal also allowed school faculty and staff to keep a student’s gender-transition-related requests secret from parents. District superintendent Danielle Tormala said that not adopting the policy “would make us a lightning rod for litigation.”

In an email, board member David Lewis voiced his opposition to the proposed policy, arguing in favor of mandatory parental notification in the case of social gender transitions, including use of opposite-sex bathrooms, use of different pronouns, or the use of a new name. He asked Tormala, “If [a] parent asks if there are any boys using girls’ facilities, will you tell the parents the truth?” Board member Renee Henke also voiced her opposition to the proposed policies, insisting that “parents should always be notified…”

Lewis and Henke also advocated for making the discussion of transgender bathroom policies public, noting that concealing discussions on policies that would affect the entire school district could violate the state’s public disclosure laws. Another school board member warned against discussing transgender-related policies in public, claiming that lawsuits would follow if the topic were debated in public. According to board member Jennifer Olson, closed-doors discussion subjects included “the role of government in the lives of students, and how the Board could not have this discussion in front of parents or the community.” She added, “After this closed session meeting, parents and students have expressed to me that the transgender bathroom use policy is being implemented on our campuses.”

Tormala later introduced a new policy that would block all school board members but the president and superintendent from consulting with the school district’s lawyer, a move Bailey’s lawsuit classifies as “retaliatory against some of the board’s members in light of the objections and concerns raised by those members concerning impermissible discussions previously held in closed session.”

In comments to The Washington Stand, Meg Kilgannon, senior fellow for Education Studies at Family Research Council, emphasized the importance of engaging with local governments when dealing with transgender issues.

“When you consider the situation in Missouri, with an attorney general bravely defending children, parents, and parental rights, and contrast Missouri with California or New Jersey, whose attorneys general are attacking the school boards which try to defend parental rights regarding gender identity, we are able to see spiritual warfare taking the form of culture war politics,” she said. “This is why it is so important to pay attention to local government, especially school boards. Children deserve to be protected from evil and confusion. We cannot stand by and let government agencies be used to promote wicked worldviews that undermine people at the very core of themselves.”

This comes as government-run schools across the nation continue pushing to keep the effects of gender ideology on students a secret from parents. A recent report found that over 1,000 U.S. school districts, comprising over 18,000 schools responsible for over 11 million students, currently enforce gender transition secrecy policies forbidding faculty and staff from informing parents of their children’s decisions to socially transition by using different bathrooms or pronouns.

As if to reiterate the government’s view of parental rights, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona recently criticized parents who speak or protest at school board meetings, alleging that they are “misbehaving in public” and “acting as if they know what’s right for kids.” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland notoriously instructed the FBI to investigate such parents as potential domestic terrorists back in 2021. When questioned last month about that decision, Garland declared he stood by it.

Bailey’s lawsuit declares, “Parents should be aware when public schools develop and enact school policies that affect the safety and well-being of their children, especially when the Open Meetings Law mandates that those discussions be held in public view.” Bailey is seeking $1,000 from the Wentzville school district for each knowing violation of the state’s transparency laws and $5,000 for each purposeful violation.

S.A. McCarthy serves as a news writer at The Washington Stand.