State Attorney General Files Suit Vs. CVUSD Over Parental Transgender Notification

In an action intended to have a statewide impact, California Attorney General Rob Bonta on Monday morning filed suit against the Chino Valley Unified School District to stop enforcement of the policy the school board passed in July mandating parent notification of children attending the district who identify in school as transgender.
Bonta asserted that the need to prevent “mental harm, emotional harm and physical harm” to those students who are products of families who are not accepting of their choice to deviate from their birth or biological gender trumps the right of all parents to be informed of their children’s sexual identity choice. “This policy is destructive,” he said. “It’s discriminatory and it’s downright dangerous. It has no place in California, which is why we have moved in court to strike it down.”
Legal experts who examined the request for an injunction against the policy, however, said the filing was reliant in its central premise on a questionable legal theory that will likely be subjected to polemics for controversion by the district and any other entities with standing who come forward to challenge the suit or uphold Chino Valley Unified’s policy or similar ones that are being enacted by school districts elsewhere. Those attorneys said Bonta’s filing includes further arguments that fall outside the realm of established case law and which, by variant interpretation, lend themselves to support of the argument for parental disclosure. The Chino Valley Unified School District first took up the issue after Republican Assemblyman Bill Essayli with the introduction of Assembly Bill 1314 in March sought, unsuccessfully, to impose statewide a requirement that school officials not keep information pertaining to the gender reidentification that students insist upon within a school setting from the parents of those children. At its April 7 meeting, the Chino Valley Unified School Board by a 4-to-1 margin passed a resolution to endorse Essayli’s bill.
A week after the board’s vote, AB 1314 died a quiet legislative procedural death when Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, a Democrat and the chairman of the Assembly Education Committee, declined to set a hearing date for the bill before his committee, such that the bill was not given a chance to be considered by the entire Assembly. With the encouragement of Essayli and others, the school board then sought to impose a similar notification requirement within the district using its own authority. That matter was taken up at the board’s July 20 meeting.
The item brought hundreds of students, former students, parents, teachers and other interested community members, along with individuals and officials from as far away as Sacramento and San Diego to the meeting to express their support or opposition for the resolution as proposed. One such state official was California Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurmond, who traveled to Chino from the state capital to express his opposition to the policy. Because of an overflow crowd at the meeting, which was held in the auditorium at Don Lugo High School, public speaking time was reduced from the normal three minutes to one minute.
In the lead up to the discussion of the matter, the district’s special counsel, Tony De Marco, said the policy passed U.S. and California constitutional muster and cut out exceptions from disclosure that allowed students’ statements to counselors to be deemed confidential and be exempt from the parental disclosure requirement. He said the policy further anticipated issues that might arise from students living in households where parents prove hostile or abusive to their transgender children, such that the district would be required, under the law to report to authorities – meaning the local law enforcement agency – if a parent or parents were to be suspected of abusing his or her or their child because of their declared transgenderism. De Marco said relevant interpretations of the U.S. and California constitutions did not hold that disclosing to a parent or parents his, her or their child’s gender reidentification was a violation of a student’s constitutional privacy rights.
De Marco’s input was counterbalanced with a letter from Bonta, writing in his capacity as the state attorney general, in which he cautioned the district that his office might pursue legal action, since, he said, children are protected by privacy and nondiscrimination laws.
When during his presentation to the board Thurmond ran over his allotted 60 seconds, Superintendent Norm Enfield, who was serving as the timekeeper, at the instruction of School Board President Sonja Shaw, cut the podium’s microphone off. This caused a momentary contretemps, as Thurmond, a California Assemblyman representing the north East Bay from 2014 to 2018, a one-time member of the Richmond City Council and a board member of the West Contra Costa County School District accustomed to being accorded deference in making his public pronouncements, stood stunned at the podium over having been limited in his remarks as were the others participating in the meeting. Shaw called for a break in the proceedings as no fewer than four of the district’s police/security officers surrounded Thurmond, who ultimately relinquished his position at the podium before the meeting proceeded.
Ultimately, after the meeting raucously continued with supporters of the board encouraging the passage of the policy, LGBQT partisans vociferously denouncing the move, constant interruptions and shouts and chants of dissent and Shaw having security remove approaching a dozen of the participants, predominantly LGBQT activists, from the premises, the School Board voted 4-to-1, with Shaw and board members James Na, Jon Monroe and Andrew Cruz prevailing and Don Bridge dissenting, to pass the policy directive.
More than a month later, in his legal filing, which was joined in by Senior Assistant Attorney General Michael Newman, supervising deputy attorneys general Laura L. Faer and James F. Zahradka and deputy attorney generals Edward Nugent, Gary D. Rowe, Alexander Simpson, Xiyun Yang and Elbert Tran, Bonta asserted, “Education is a fundamental right in California. This fundamental right to education is available to all, including those students who are transgender, gender nonconforming, and those whose gender expression and gender identity differ from their cisgender and gender conforming peers.”
Cisgender is a term coined by the LGBQT – lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, transgender – community to denote an individual whose gender identity is consistent with his or her birth or natural gender.
“Under the California Constitution, and pursuant to state law, local educational agencies must ensure that any policies they implement provide equal protection to all students regardless of their gender expression, gender identity, or sexual orientation, and may not unlawfully discriminate against any protected class of students while receiving funds from the state. The California Constitution also prohibits local educational agencies from infringing on the privacy rights of their students. These responsibilities of local educational agencies – to provide equal protection to all students, and to refrain from infringing on the privacy rights of students – must not be taken lightly, and certainly should not be used as justification for discrimination. However, instead of honoring these duties, the Chino Valley Unified School District has singled out an especially vulnerable group of children and youth for discriminatory treatment: transgender and gender nonconforming students.”
According to the lawsuit’s narrative, “On July 20, 2023, the district school board adopted Policy 5020.1 and its forced disclosure provisions. The policy mandates that Chino Valley Unified School District employees ‘out’ transgender and gender nonconforming students to their parents or guardians, regardless of the students’ wishes, whenever the student asks to be identified or treated as a gender ‘other than the student’s biological sex or gender listed on the student’s birth certificate or any other official records.’ Policy 5020.1 also requires forced disclosure whenever a student requests to use a different name than their legal name or to use pronouns ‘that do not align with the student’s biological sex or gender listed on the student’s birth certificate or other official records.’ And Policy 5020.1 requires staff members to notify parents or guardians whenever the student requests to access ‘sex-segregated school programs and activities,’ including asking to join a sports team or use a different bathroom.”
The lawsuit maintains that “Since the first day of the 2023-2024 school year, Policy 5020.1 has placed transgender and gender nonconforming students in danger of imminent, irreparable harm from the consequences of forced disclosures. These students are currently under threat of being outed to their parents or guardians against their express wishes and will. They are in real fear that the district’s policy will force them to make a choice: either ‘walk back’ their constitutionally and statutorily protected rights to gender identity and gender expression, or face the risk of emotional, physical, and psychological harm from non-affirming or unaccepting parents or guardians. Policy 5020.1 unlawfully discriminates against transgender and gender nonconforming students, subjecting them to disparate treatment, harassment, and abuse, mental, emotional, and physical. This is by design: the board’s plain motivations in adopting Policy 5020.1 were to create and harbor animosity, discrimination, and prejudice towards these transgender and gender nonconforming students, without any compelling reason to do so.”
The lawsuit states that “Without action from this court, transgender and gender nonconforming students’ rights to be free from unlawful discrimination, harassment, and abuse will be violated.”
Prior to the filing of the suit, state investigators had been examining district documents, and district employees were complying with requests for the provision of those materials. State investigators conducted numerous interviews with Chino Valley Unified students, most notably ones who identify as transgender.
Equality California, an LGBTQ civil rights group, was among the organizations that had called upon the State of California to take legal or procedural action against the district for putting the policy in place. Upon the filing of the suit, Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang stated, “Policies like those approved by the Chino Valley school board and school boards in Murrieta Valley and Temecula are intensifying the already alarming increase of anti-LGBTQ+ hate we are experiencing. California must stand up against these policies that fly in the face of the principles of equality and respect for all people.”
The Chino Valley Unified School District is among roughly three to four dozen jurisdictions within the State of California and the state’s over 800 various governmental and administrative subdivisions where the dominant political orientation of the Democratic Party and what is described as its “liberal” orientation is not in ascendancy.
A potent force in the Chino Valley is the founder of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, Pastor Jack Hibbs, a so-called denominationalist, who holds that Christians have a duty to take over public office and promote their religious beliefs. Gradually, with the 2006 election of Sylvia Orozco, a Calvary Chapel parishioner, to the school board, followed by the 2008 election of another of Hibbs’ acolytes, James Na, and then the 2012 election of a third member of his congregation, Andrew Cruz, to the school board, Hibbs effectuated a religious trifecta and accrued a majority hold on the board that was significant enough to make real inroads with regard to the district’s policies. One manifestation of this was the board making Bible study part of the district curriculum, as well as including benedictions at the beginning of the school board meetings and later, after Na became board president, outright evangelism from the district board dais, with Na telling those present at meetings that they should seek out Jesus Christ as their personal savior. When the district began to move toward including daily prayer as part of basic instruction at the district’s schools, the Freedom From Religion Foundation of Madison, Wisconsin in 2014 stepped in and filed suit in Federal Court in Riverside against the district on behalf of two named plaintiffs, Larry Maldonado and Mike Anderson, and 21 unnamed plaintiffs who asserted they were alienated or intimidated at school board meetings because of the insistence of some district officials to engage in so-called Christian witnessing, including “prayers, Bible readings and proselytizing.”
A ruling on the Freedom From Religion Foundation lawsuit by Federal Judge Jesus Bernal resulted in overt religiosity and proselytizing within the district’s schools being eliminated. In 2018, this trend picked up steam when Orozco did not seek reelection and Christina Gagnier and Joe Schaffer were elected and thereafter joined with Board Member Irene Hernandez-Blair to form a board majority that countered Na and Cruz. But in the time since, however, following the 2020 election, when Hernandez did not seek reelection and was replaced by Don Bridge and both Na and Cruz were reelected and the 2022 election, when Sonja Shaw replaced Gagnier and Schaffer did not run and Jon Monroe was elected to the board, the religious right – represented by Na, Cruz, Shaw and Monroe – had once again taken over solid control of the district board.
It is noteworthy that Democrats at the state level previously saw in the Chino Valley Unified School District and the bully pulpit of its board a forum that offered what was to them a somewhat disquieting opportunity for those voices of dissent to the liberal orthodoxy that pervades Sacramento to be heard. Gagnier, an attorney by profession blessed with the photogenic quality of a movie star whose ambition toward higher office included the state legislature and Congress, had evolved into a darling of the Democratic establishment. Several sitting state Democratic officeholders, including Thurmond, came to Chino in the late summer and fall of 2022 to assist her in her campaign for reelection. Despite that, she was beaten by Shaw, who had the benefit of having Hibbs’ political machine behind her.
The district’s readiness to embrace the principle embodied in Essayli’s failed Assembly Bill 1314 is widely seen as a primary offshoot of the right’s rediscovered political control of the district.
The board majority and its supporters maintain that Democrats and progressives have commandeered the educational process, subjecting students to liberal indoctrination, which includes encouraging them to explore alternative forms of sexual expression, including homosexuality, bisexuality and making a serious consideration of transexuality.
Meanwhile, the combined forces of the progressives out of Sacramento and the activists on behalf of the LGBTQ crowd have decried the willingness of the members of the Chino Valley Unified School District Board and a few other boards such as those in Temecula and Murrieta Valley to pass Policy 5020.1 or ones similar to it which push what they say is a conservative agenda while politicizing classrooms.
For many, such sentiment coming from the ideologues aligned with California’s dominant political party, particularly given the issues and stakes involved, is too pat and a tad bit on the hypocritical side.
A huge unknown, those who support Policy 5020.1 and the concept behind Essayli’s Assembly Bill 1314 contend, is what motivations and factors go into a student seeking gender reidentification, what exchange of information within the school setting led to or contributed to that reidentification request, what information exchange followed it, what advocacy ensued, what counseling took place and what that counseling consisted of. There are different forms and different intents when it comes to counseling, they point out. Counseling can be designed or calculated to dissuade the individual being counseled from following a given course or it can be designed or calculated to reinforce the beliefs of the individual being counseled and confirm his or her moving in the direction he or she has set out on. There is religious-oriented counseling. There is secular counseling. There is counseling intended to further indoctrination with regard to any of several differing ideologies. Within the atmospherics of many school districts, a majority of the faculty leans toward one side or the other with regard to indisputably controversial topics or subjects. Any given student’s parents may have substantial differences with those attitudes. A common refrain among parents of students in the Chino Valley Joint Unified School District is that they identify themselves as falling closer to the conservative side of the spectrum than the progressive side and they have misgivings that their children are being indoctrinated in the district’s classroom with a “woke” ideology they reject. Some have expressed concern that students of the district being bombared with this woke mentality may embrace for themselves a transgender orientation when otherwise they would have remained within the strictures of their natural gender identity.
With regard to whatever counseling a student seeking gender reidentification might receive, supporters of Policy 5020.1 point out, there are multiple accounts now available nationwide of individuals who underwent gender reassignment surgery who maintain they were misled by counselors who told them that gender reassignment would provide them a means of overcoming the symptoms of gender dysphoria they were once experiencing. A substantial number of individuals who at a young age underwent gender reassignment surgery are now maintaining that they were not provided with enough information by their counselors and the medical professionals who performed the gender reassignment surgery of what the full implication of what they underwent is nor the limits to what would actually be accomplished through the gender reassignment process. Available statistics indicate that a significant number of girls – 3 percent to 5 percent of the population – undergo at the onset of puberty a period of gender dysphoria that in most cases passes within a year to 18 months. Moreover, it has been alleged, a significant number of both males and females in which gender dysphoria has manifested have accompanying mental issues, such as bipolar disorder, autism, and assault trauma or other forms of anxiety, which are not overtly dealt with in the counseling sessions that focus on a patient’s perception of dysphoria. Statistics show that in upwards of 80 percent of the cases where gender reassignment surgery took place, the medical professionals did not investigate whether trauma was a factor in their patients’ transition decisions. More and more, medical professionals, including ones involved in facilitating the transitioning process, have expressed concern that too many adolescents are being fast-tracked onto medical solutions for psychological problems when it comes to gender reassignment surgery.
For those reasons, supporters of Policy 5020.1 say, parents should be informed, not of what, precisely, their children are saying to their counselors or therapists, but simply that their children are experiencing, or claiming to experience, gender dysphoria and are seeking gender reidentification. Moreover, according to supporters of Policy 5020.1, parents should be informed of any decision made by their children with regard to action they are going to take as a consequence of the counseling they underwent, such as electing to undergo gender reassignment surgery.
Lawyers who examined the suit filed by Bonta said it presents several problematic legal issues. One attorney disputed the accuracy of the suit’s language, referencing both the assertion “The policy mandates that Chino Valley Unified School District employees ‘out’ transgender and gender nonconforming students to their parents or guardians” and “The board’s plain motivations in adopting Policy 5020.1 were to create and harbor animosity, discrimination, and prejudice towards these transgender and gender nonconforming students.” Both those assertions mischaracterize Policy 5020.1, he said.
Nowhere in Policy 5020.1 is the term “out” used, the lawyer pointed out, and by setting the word off in quotes, the lawyer said, Bonta comes dangerously close to attempting to mislead the court. Nor can the district establish by any proof that the policy was intended to create and harbor animosity, discrimination, and prejudice towards transgender and gender nonconforming students, the lawyer said.
Another lawyer told the Sentinel that Bonta overdrew the language in the suit, in that constitutional guaranties of privacy do not extend to what is inherently public activity. A student who, presumably, openly identifies as a gender other than the one assigned him or her at birth in the public setting of a public school cannot plausibly assert a privacy right relating to that identification, the lawyer said.
Principles established in California law and case law, two lawyers the Sentinel consulted with agreed, render parents legally liable for the action of their children. That legal liability carries with it certain other legal implications, including that information relating to their children in the custody of a public agency, even if deemed “confidential” or “privileged” by other standards, cannot be withheld from those children’s parents or legal guardians.
Moreover, all three lawyers agreed, assertions of fact or consideration made by Bonta in the lawsuit to justify withholding information from parents, seen from an alternate perspective, provide a rationale, indeed a compelling one, for disclosure.
“A study of 2015-16 data from California public schools found that more than 40 percent of transgender students reported being bullied because of their gender identity, as opposed to only 7.3 percent of non-transgender students who reported gender-based bullying or bullying on the basis of perceived gender identity,” Bonta’s suit states. “This same study also reported that more than half (55.6 percent) of transgender students in the state reported physical victimization (such as being threatened with a weapon, threatened with harm, shoved, or in a physical fight), and more than two-thirds (69.2 percent) reported nonphysical victimization, such as being called demeaning names or being the recipient of demeaning sexual jokes or gestures.”
The suit’s narrative continues, “Because transgender students face discrimination because of their gender identity, they are also at risk of suicide and serious mental health issues. Eighty-six percent of transgender youth reported suicidal thoughts, and 56 percent of transgender youth reported a previous suicide attempt.”
Bonta maintained that students who are allowed to “socially transition” are no more suicide-prone than students who accept their natural or birth gender.
Other statistics about the mental stability of transgender youth are only slightly less grim. According to a survey by the Trevor Project, a national LGBTQ+ nonprofit group, on the order of two-thirds of “transgender and nonbinary” teenagers say at least one of their parents are unaccepting of their sexual identity. More than half of transgender and nonbinary individuals from the age of 13 to 25 years acknowledged to the Trevor Project that they had “seriously considered” suicide, with more than 19 percent saying they had made an unsuccessful attempt at fordoing themselves.
A key resource for students or anyone being bullied or psychologically harassed, the lawyers pointed out, are their families. While they acknowledged that some parents may not be approving, accepting or supportive of their children’s dysphoria or inclination toward applying gender reassignment as a solution, the belief that a child’s conception of his own internal sexual reality can be hidden indefinitely from his or her parents is outright delusional, they said. An earlier resolution of that issue involving all aspects of the child’s life, is more likely to lead to a suitable conclusion, they said. The efforts by the state to perpetuate interfamilial secrecy in such cases is at least as indefensible, overall, as the opponents of Policy 5020.1 say the policy is an invasion of children’s privacy, the lawyers suggested.
The district and its legal team, including De Marco, are preparing to defend the policy in court, that being Department 27 at the San Bernardino Justice Center, where Judge Thomas S Garza is to oversee the proceedings. The next hearing on the matter is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on September 6.

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