A federal lawsuit has been filed against an Ohio school district that is accused of punishing students for “misgendering” peers, even if it happens in off-campus communications.
Parents Defending Education (PDE), a national nonprofit association, filed the lawsuit against Olentangy Local School District on Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.
The lawsuit alleges that “District policies violate students’ First Amendment rights by chilling students’ speech rights, compelling students to affirm beliefs about sex and gender that are contrary to their own deeply held beliefs, and violating parents’ Fourteenth Amendment rights through the district’s efforts to restrict speech off school grounds and in families’ homes.”
The district’s Student Code of Conduct lists “transgender identity” as a protected group and requires students to use classmates’ “preferred” pronouns.
“The District’s other actions send a clear message to students that only one view about gender identity is acceptable: it has pushed parents out of critical gender-identity decisions of their children through its use of ‘Gender Identity Support Plans’ for students whose biological gender does not align with their gender identity, which the District uses without the consent of their parents,” PDE said in a statement. “OLSD has also issued ‘Transgender Guidelines’ that instruct teachers and other District officials to hide the student’s gender identity and “preferred pronouns” from the student’s parents, unless the minor student gives permission otherwise.”
According to PDE, the school district prioritizes discussions of “gender identity” over other issues, encourages teachers to ask about students’ gender identities in class, has flags related to sexual orientation and gender identity plastered in hallways and classrooms beginning in kindergarten, encourages celebrating “holidays” including “International Pronouns Day” and “International Transgender Day of Visibility,” and prioritizes events sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN).
“Olentangy’s ‘harassment’ policies show a deep contempt for the constitutional rights of its students and families,” said Parents Defending Education Vice President Caroline Moore. “Public schools cannot force students to speak in a way that supports a viewpoint contrary to their deeply held beliefs— nor may schools follow students home to police their speech at all hours of the day on their personal devices. But Olentangy has enacted a series of overbroad ‘Anti-Harassment’ policies under the guise of ‘inclusivity’ that flout basic constitutional rights both in and outside of the classroom.”
The lawsuit asks the court to declare that “Olentangy’s ‘harassment’ provisions violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as to enjoin the District from enforcing the ‘harassment’ provisions, from punishing speech about gender identity or compelling speech to affirm another person’s gender identity, and from punishing students for speech occurring off school grounds that is not for or during a school-sponsored activity.”