Iowa School District Agrees to Pay 20K Over Rescinded Gender-Affirming School Policy

GistFest via BNN Breaking Photo Source: GistFest via BNN Breaking

Iowa’s Linn-Mar Community Schools District has agreed to pay $20,000 to end a lawsuit over a now-rescinded district policy that allowed students to ask for a gender support plan that would aid them in their gender transition without the permission of their parents or legal guardians.

The lawsuit was filed by the parent group Parents Defending Education. The lawsuit describes the organization as an advocacy group supporting parents, students, and other concerned citizens against the “politicization of K-12 education.”

The school district policy, which is no longer in effect, was passed in April 2022. It aimed to offer more accessibility for transgender students, including giving students who struggle with their gender identity the choice to use restrooms, locker rooms, or changing areas that reflect their gender identity.

The school policy would garner national attention, and in February 2023, former Vice President Mike Pence criticized the policy stating, "The strength of our nation is tied to the strength of our families, and we cannot stand idly by as the radical left attempts to indoctrinate our children behind parents' backs."

The school board would later rescind the policy in March 2023 over concerns about a then-pending bill in the Iowa legislature. The bill which has since passed prohibits a school from knowingly giving “false or misleading information to a parent or guardian of their child’s gender identity or intention to transition.”

Parents Defending Education was initially denied a preliminary injunction after U.S. District Judge Jane Kelly recognized in 2022 that the school board implemented the policy to “ensure a safe, affirming and healthy school environment” for students and that the ultimate goal of the policy was “not only appropriately inclusive and well within the scope of the district’s educational mission … it is mandated by law.”

Parents Defending Education appealed the ruling because they argued the policy was a violation of a parent’s right to oversee and direct the care, custody, and control of their children.

The appellate court would go on to say that the parent advocacy group would likely succeed in its claims because the school policy was “void for vagueness,” and failed to define what school conduct was prohibited as it failed to define the term “respect.” Because of the lack of definition, the policy could apply to any speech about gender identity that school administrators might deem “disrespectful” toward ​​another’s gender identity.

Parents Defending Education would go on to say that the policy violated a student's First Amendment right to free speech because students would be punished if they vocalized their beliefs about biological sex. The students were also compelled to recognize the beliefs of their classmates and administrators, as the policy prohibited speech that did not “respect a student’s gender identity and misgendering.”

The school board announced that it would agree to a settlement because “The board believes the time and resources of the district are better spent looking forward than continuing to defend a lawsuit about a policy that has not been in effect for nearly a year.”

The school board maintains that they are committed to the needs of “all learners” and providing a “safe and affirming school environment for transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming students and their families within the parameters of the law.”

Nadia El-Yaouti
Nadia El-Yaouti
Nadia El-Yaouti is a postgraduate from James Madison University, where she studied English and Education. Residing in Central Virginia with her husband and two young daughters, she balances her workaholic tendencies with a passion for travel, exploring the world with her family.
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