Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Parent's Rights Group, Halts School's Trans Mandates
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A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of a parental rights group that challenged an Iowa school district on its policy requiring staff and students to affirm their classmate's gender disorder or be punished if they didn't.
The U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously Friday that a policy established by the Linn Mar Community School District in August 2022 was "unconstitutionally vague."
Parents Defending Education (PDE) filed a lawsuit against the school district last year over the guidelines that required staff to hide students' "gender support plans" from their parents.
It also mandated that both students and staff "respect" the identity of "transgender students, gender-expansive students, nonbinary, gender nonconforming students, and students questioning their gender."
The three-judge panel ruled that the school's requirements "lacked clarity" and granted a preliminary injunction that would temporarily halt the school's policy.
"Due to the vagueness of the policy, the case is remanded with directions to grant a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the portion of the policy prohibiting an intentional or persistent refusal 'to respect a student's gender identity,'" the ruling reads.
The court overturned a lower court's decision to deny the preliminary injunction citing that PDE did not demonstrate "injury, causation, or redressability on its claims."
But the Eighth Circuit determined there was a "credible threat of enforcement" since the policy required students to be "disciplined by appropriate measures, which may include suspension and expulsion" if they did not follow the guidelines.
The three-panel court did dismiss part of the appeal claim as "moot" citing a newly approved law by the Iowa Legislature, Senate File 496, that requires school district officials to notify parents and guardians if a student requests to use a different pronoun or name than the one assigned to them at birth.
Nicole Neilly, president of PDE, called the ruling a "huge victory for students' free speech."
BREAKING: The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals just ruled in favor of @DefendingEd’s lawsuit against the Linn-Mar Community School District in Iowa.— Nicki Neily (@nickineily) September 29, 2023
This is a huge victory for students’ free speech!
My full statementhttps://t.co/G3xjUGUrI1 pic.twitter.com/ZnxyeguO8B
"We are gratified that the Eighth Circuit upheld the rights of families and students in Linn-Mar. It is never acceptable to prohibit speech with vague terms that allow arbitrary enforcement, especially when compelled student speech is at stake, and this sends a clear message to other districts across the country with similar bullying and harassment policies on the book," she wrote in a statement.
Neilly continued, "The Eighth Circuit also made clear that Linn-Mar's parental exclusion policies are now unlawful throughout the State of Iowa. Yet these policies remain on the books in far too many districts across the country. Parental exclusion policies are a loser in the court of public opinion – and I have no doubt that they will eventually be struck down in the court of law as well."
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