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Iowa parents fight schools’ transgender secrecy

One district’s policy could keep parents in the dark


Iowa parents fight schools’ transgender secrecy

An Iowa school district is going where no other district in the state has gone by letting students choose to identify as the opposite sex at school, including going by another name, while instructing teachers, counselors, and administrators not to tell their parents.

That’s part of a nearly 3,000-word policy adopted in April by the Linn-Mar Community School District, located in suburban Cedar Rapids about four hours west of Chicago. The policy expands on federal and state laws that promote transgender ideology.

Seven parents challenged the policy anonymously as Parents A-G in a federal lawsuit and appeal filed by a national nonprofit, Parents Defending Education. The group lost a motion to block the gender policy in September when U.S. District Judge C.J. Williams ruled the group’s five constitutional challenges were unlikely to succeed. Williams, a Trump appointee, ruled the policy posed no “imminent harms” to child-rearing or protected speech.

Now, a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Court of Appeals is mulling the motion. The panel heard oral argument in the case the day after Valentine’s Day. In a St. Paul, Minn., courtroom, they quizzed Cameron Norris, an attorney for Parents Defending Education, and Miriam Van Heukelem, an attorney for the school district.

The plight of a parent known in court documents as “Parent B” illustrates the case’s complexity. Parent B’s daughter takes special education courses in a Linn-Mar High School classroom where an LGBT student club meets. Her teacher is the club’s faculty adviser. Posters in the classroom address “gender identities,” “preferred pronouns,” and “social transitions.”

Parent B attempted to transfer the daughter to a neighboring school district, but overcapacity for special education students prevented the move. Private schools lacked special education resources and were not an option. The child is “extremely impressionable,” according to the parent. Should the daughter express interest in gender identities, the policy permits school staff to create a Gender Support Plan without parental involvement.

“People of good faith can disagree about whether that treatment is what’s best for kids,” Norris told the court. “But under the 14th Amendment, the government can’t impose that treatment on children behind their parents’ backs. And under the First Amendment, the government can’t force dissenting students to mouth their support for it.”

The school district policy includes a confidentiality clause that would prohibit staff from sharing a student's gender identity information with “others including but not limited to other students, parents, and school staff unless legally required to do so.”

Judges questioned if the clause meant the student’s parents would not receive the information.

Van Heukelem argued that the school would not necessarily withhold information from parents because the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act gives parents access to records. On rebuttal, Norris argued that, under the policy, any files and communication about gender between a school counselor and student would not be accessible to the student’s family.

Following the oral argument, Nicole Neily, president of Parents Defending Education, said she’s limited in what she can say about the policy during litigation. “We are hopeful that the court will vindicate our members’ rights and those of their children and await the panel’s decision in the next several months,” she said.

Gary Perilloux

Gary is a native of Hammond, La., and an alumnus of Southeastern Louisiana University and Louisiana State University. Over three decades, he worked as an editor and reporter in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, and as communications director for Louisiana Economic Development. A 2022 graduate of World Journalism Institute, he and his wife reside in Baton Rouge, La.


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