OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today joined a coalition of 15 attorneys general in an amicus brief in support of a Maryland board of education’s efforts to create a safe and supportive environment for transgender children and all students. The Montgomery County Board of Education (MCBE) in Maryland is currently facing a challenge to its policy that seeks to protect against the unnecessary disclosure of a student’s gender identity, while also striving to include families in creating a safe school environment for transgender students. In the friend-of-the-court brief, the attorneys general reiterate the role of states in supporting safe, inclusive school environments that help all children learn, thrive, and grow into contributing members of society.
“All children deserve a safe and supportive school environment as they grow into the leaders of tomorrow,” said Attorney General Bonta. “By respecting and supporting a student’s identity, schools and educators can reduce physical and mental health risks for transgender children and set all students up for success. The Montgomery Board of Education’s policy directly supports safety for students and their families — and it should be upheld. At the California Department of Justice, we’ll continue to fight for the rights of LGBTQ+ students and all of our nation’s children.”
MCBE and its members, like other school authorities around the country, are charged with one of the most important functions of government — nurturing successive generations of children into capable citizens. In recognition of the paramount importance of this responsibility, courts have long afforded state and local governments significant discretion to shape school policies in order to best serve this goal, so long as they act within the constraints of federal law, including both the Constitution and federal antidiscrimination law. In the current case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the coalition asserts that MCBE has exercised its lawful discretion to craft a policy to support transgender or gender-nonconforming students. The policy prefers including families in developing gender support plans and works towards that outcome, but recognizes that not all families are supportive, and not all students are open about their gender identity at home. Where a student does not want the school to disclose their status to others, including parents, information on the student’s gender identities is not shared with their families. The policy endeavors to keep transgender students supported and safe while at school. In addition, research shows that protecting a transgender student’s ability to make choices about how and when to inform others is critical to their well-being, as transgender students are exposed to high levels of harassment and mistreatment at school and in their communities. Seventy-seven percent of students known or perceived as transgender reported negative experiences such as harassment and assault, and over half of transgender and nonbinary youth reported seriously considering suicide in the past year.
In the amicus brief, the coalition asserts:
In filing the amicus brief, Attorney General Bonta joins the attorneys general of Massachusetts, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
A copy of the amicus brief is available here.