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School District’s May Require Students to Respect Preferred Pronouns

In the case of Parents Defending Edn. v. Olentangy Local School Dist. Bd. of Edn., S.D.Ohio No. 2:23-cv-01595 (July 28, 2023), a federal district court held that the school district’s policies prohibiting the intentional misgendering of transgender students were not unconstitutional.

In this case, the parents of several students argued that (1) the policies violated the First Amendment by requiring students to recognize the idea that gender is fluid, contrary to their deeply held religious beliefs and (2) the policies violated the Fourteenth Amendment by infringing on ‘the fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children. In response, the school district argued that (1) the policies were intended to ensure that all students have an opportunity to learn and grow in an environment most conducive to speculation, experiment, and creation and (2) the fundamental right of parents to direct the care, upbringing, and education of their children does not encompass a right to generally direct how a public school teaches their child or how the school disciplines their child. The federal district court agreed with the school district.

In support of its decision in favor of the school district on the First Amendment claim, the federal district court explained:

[A] plain reading of the Policies indicates that they prohibit only that subset of discriminatory speech that creates a threat of physical harm, interferes with students’ educational opportunities, substantially disrupts the operation of schools, or causes or contributes to a hostile environment. Each of these reasons for regulating school speech is permitted by the First Amendment. It also appears that the Policies allow students to continue engaging in well-intentioned, respectful discussions about gender identity, as the First Amendment contemplates.

Opinion and Order at 27-28.

In support of its decision in favor of the school district on the Fourteenth Amendment claim, the federal district court explained “[t]here is nothing in the Policies that suggests that they prohibit parents from discussing gender identity issues with their children, or reach in some other way into the privacy of families’ homes,” and further, there is no suggestion that the Policies “extend to speech unrelated to school, school activities, or fellow students.” Id. at 38.

To read this case, click here.

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