A parent of three children in a New Jersey school district is suing the system over a policy that doesn’t notify parents when transgender students change their name or preferred pronouns.
The federal lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey names Cherry Hill Public Schools as a defendant and comes from concerned father Rick Short.
He claims the policies, which are modeled after a state directive, violate his rights as a parent and is seeking to repeal the policy or add a provision requiring parental involvement.
Cherry Hill, the 12th largest system in the state, is the latest New Jersey school district to find itself embroiled in a dispute over parent notification and LGBTQ+ policies in the state, with several of its nearly 600 public school districts having adopted the policy.
Rick Short – a father of three children enrolled in the Cherry Hill School District – claims the policies, modeled after a state directive, violate his rights as a parent and is seeking to repeal the policy or add a provision restricting the involvement of the supports parents
Cherry Hill Public Schools, the 12th largest system in the state, consists of 18 schools from preschool through high school
Short, a father of four who previously ran for city council, filed the lawsuit on Oct. 12, naming the state Department of Defense as a defendant.
This comes as the policy, known as Policy 5756, has been criticized by parents and even some districts.
In comments to The Philadelphia InquirerShort spoke a little about the lawsuit and some of his concerns about “student-centered” transgender policies.
“I don’t agree with the policy,” Short told the newspaper Tuesday, as three of his four children remain enrolled in one of the district’s 18 schools.
“To me, it’s so out of hand that a parent doesn’t have the right to know what’s going on in their child’s life,” he continued of the consultation.
‘I just want to know.’
According to the policy adopted in 2019, “a transgender student will be addressed at school by his or her chosen name and pronouns, regardless of whether there has been a legal name change or a change in official school records.”
Barbara Wilson, a spokeswoman for the school district, reportedly declined to comment when asked by The Inquirer on Tuesday about the threatened lawsuit, telling the publication that the system does not discuss pending litigation.
Lawyers for Short, meanwhile, claimed in its filing that the policy violates the father’s 14th Amendment rights, which allow him to direct the care, education and health decisions of his school-age children.
Speaking to PBS last Friday, attorney Tom Stavola explained this argument.
“The constitutional basis is that this violates parents’ substantive 14th Amendment due process rights to determine the medical care and health care decisions of their children,” Stavola said.
“We argue here that this policy constitutes an unconstitutional interference with the plaintiff, in this case the parent who has three children at Cherry Hill High School, on his right to direct the care, education and medical decisions of his children .”
Short, a father of four who previously ran for city council, filed the lawsuit on Oct. 12, naming the state Department of Defense as a defendant. Short has two daughters and a son enrolled in the district. The latter is a newcomer and has never stated that he is transgender
Back in June, New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin filed civil rights complaints to stop four New Jersey public school districts from implementing similar policies on the grounds that they discriminate against LGBTQ+ students
Lawyers for Short, meanwhile, claimed in its filing that the policy violates the father’s 14th Amendment rights, which allow him to direct the care, education and health decisions of his school-age children. Pictured is one of his lawyers, Tom Stavola
Short has two daughters and a son enrolled in the district. The latter is a newcomer and has never stated that he is transgender.
“I would know because he would tell me,” he told the outlet, adding that he was even less worried about his older daughters.
“The federal lawsuit was more or less my son’s consideration,” said Short, who has another adult daughter who recently graduated from school in the system.
“I don’t know why,” he added. “I guess because he was a newbie.”
The case is now about to be heard by a judge in the state’s Third District – and could pave the way for a possible Supreme Court trial in the event of a loss and some later appeals.
Short wants to argue that because of the district’s policies, his children could be psychologically harmed and forced to live double lives by forcing them to hide their gender identity from him and their mother.
As already mentioned, tThe policy, one of several in other states such as Maryland, has drawn increasing criticism from parents and activists alike, and district officials have even questioned it and refused to adopt it.
Earlier this year, three districts in Monmouth County and one in Morris adopted or changed parental notification policies that were put in place thanks to New Jersey state laws — ones that required educators to exclude students based on their gender identity.
In townships like Hanover, Middletown and Marlboro — along with the Manalapan-Englishtown Regional Boards of Education — officials have decided that staff must now notify parents when gender nonconforming students change their names, called with new pronouns would like to be or similar accommodations.
Back in June, New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin filed civil rights complaints to stop the four districts from implementing these policies, saying they discriminate against LGBTQ+ students.
He also used children’s mental health to support his argument, saying that failure to follow such guidelines could pose a danger to the minds of minors.
In August, the Supreme Court issued a preliminary injunction banning the new guidelines enacted in the four counties, preventing them from taking effect while the cases are heard in the state’s federal court system.
All cases are currently pending (as of October) – but could provide a precedent for Short’s newly filed lawsuit, which is also pending.
If the Cherry Hill case, which is being heard in the Third Circuit, actually moves forward, experts say it could be used as an argument for striking the policy from state law entirely.
The Supreme Court has indeed found that parental rights are important.
There is a completely different set of cases that specifically concern children’s rights and the state’s duty and interest in protecting the physical and psychological well-being of minors.
This is also reminiscent of a recent lawsuit filed in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Maryland, in which a judge ruled that parents who had filed similar complaints did not have the requisite legal standing and dismissed the case on the grounds that neither parent Members of the transgender community had children who had such complaints.