Judge Turns Down Request To Block Linn-Mar’s Gender Policy

Screenshot from the April 25 Linn-Mar School Board meeting where the new Gender Identify Policy was approved.

By Nikoel Hytrek

September 12, 2022

US District Court Judge C.J. Williams has denied the request seven Linn-Mar parents made to block the enforcement of Linn-Mar School District’s policy supporting transgender and nonbinary Linn-Mar students.

The judge made the decision because the anonymous parents failed to prove that their or their children’s rights were being restricted or that they would be in the near future.

“Here, none of the parents assert their child has been given a Gender Support Plan without their consultation or that any child has been disciplined for any misuse—intentional and repeated or otherwise—of another child’s adopted name or pronouns,” the ruling states.

Instead, most of the claims are hypotheticals Williams said don’t rise to the level of proving irreparable harm or the chance of it.

“In short, the parents only assert that they fear their rights will be harmed if some uncertain future events occur,” he wrote. “They have not shown any of these harms to be certain or imminent.”

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The Policy

Linn-Mar allows students to create Gender Support Plans to use their preferred name and pronouns at school and the school facilities that match their gender identity. For students in seventh grade and up, their preferences are prioritized, so a transgender teenager can attend school as their preferred gender, even if the family doesn’t approve.

The policy also has an anti-harassment component that reads “intentional and/or persistent refusal by staff or students to respect a student’s gender identity is a violation of school board policies” and lists policies against bullying and harassment.

The Linn-Mar school board approved the policy in April.

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The Lawsuit

Seven parents filed their lawsuit on Aug. 2, alleging the district’s Gender Support Plans violate parents’ rights to information about their children and students’ rights to free speech.

This is because students with Gender Support Plans are given authority over who the district tells about the plan, for those students who worry about how their families will react. Williams acknowledged this could be a problem, but that the parents failed to prove the policy violated their rights.

“None of them allege their children have been given a plan, none of them allege they have been left out of any plan-creation, and none of them allege they have been denied access to information about their minor children,” he wrote.

The free speech part comes from parents who say their children won’t use another student’s preferred name and/or pronouns because they don’t believe in more than two genders, and the parents don’t want their children disciplined.

However, Williams said there wasn’t proof any discipline had happened, and that the policy doesn’t compel speech or force students to speak to each other. He also said schools have the authority—and usually some responsibility—to make rules regarding bullying and harassment.

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Williams also said that in balancing the two sides, it was clear that blocking enforcement of the policy will do more harm than good for students.

“An injunction would block students from any protection from harassment and bullying on the basis of gender identity and would prevent the school from disciplining such harassment and bullying under various Title IX and Iowa civil rights-related provisions,” he wrote.

“Six parents assert their children face potential harm without an injunction,” he continued. “All families and their children in the district face potential harm with an injunction, given the Policy reaches to protect all students for various reasons and not only for name and pronoun misuse.”

On the grounds of public interest, Williams ruled there is more interest in students being safe from bullying while at school.

“It is in the public interest to ensure schools comply with state law that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity. Likewise, it is in the public interest that public schools are productive, safe places to educate children and to ensure no child is subject to harassment, bullying, or made to feel lesser for any reason by students, staff, or others while at school.”

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The parents are part of a group called Parents Defending Education, which describes itself as “a national grassroots organization working to reclaim our schools from activists imposing harmful agendas.”

Previously, the Iowa Department of Education had guidance on its website telling school districts that students could keep their trans status private and that the district should help keep it confidential. The guidance also said pronoun preference was up to students.

The US Department of Education has released guidance for how schools should treat trans students and has confirmed that Title IX includes protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity, though enforcement of those rules has been temporarily blocked by a federal judge in Tennessee.

For months, Republican politicians such as US Rep. Ashley Hinson and Gov. Kim Reynolds have attacked the policy. Hinson has cosponsored a Parents’ Bill of Rights bill in the US House that mirrors efforts taken this year by the Iowa Legislature.


Nikoel Hytrek

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Have a story idea or something I should know? Email me at [email protected]. You can also DM me on Twitter at @n_hytrek

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  • Nikoel Hytrek

    Nikoel Hytrek is Iowa Starting Line’s longest-serving reporter. She covers LGBTQ issues, abortion rights and all topics of interest to Iowans. Her biggest goal is to help connect the dots between policy and people’s real lives. If you have story ideas or tips, send them over to [email protected].

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