CHERRY HILL, New Jersey — A New Jersey father filed a federal lawsuit to block a state policy aimed at keeping schools from outing transgender students to their parents.
Frederick Short Jr., whose three children attend Cherry Hill High School, filed the suit on Oct. 12 in U.S. District court. He argues that the policy violates his Constitutional right to raise his children and make decisions about their mental health care.
“I think I should know everything my child is doing in school. Why does the school have to hide things?” said Short.
Cherry Hill School District’s policy allows students to determine what pronouns they want to use – like he, she or they – without having to notify their parents.
The state attorney general’s office and the Education Department declined to comment on the suit. Cherry Hill school officials have not responded to a request for comment.
The suit challenges guidance issued by the Education Department, which does not mandate that school staff notify parents of their child’s gender identification. The lawsuit argues such policies “provide for secrecy and the facilitation of double-lives (and) are psychologically unhealthy for youth.”
The guidance also notes that schools should keep separate files with different names for trans students and notify parents only when required by law or – in some cases – involving bullying.
Garden State Equality, the largest LBGTQ+ advocacy organization in New Jersey, supports the pronoun policy, which its executive director Christian Fuscarino says was established state-wide when trans student guidance passed under New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in 2017.
“There’s only a handful of districts that have reversed this policy. And I can’t understand why anyone would remove policies that are keeping kids safe,” said Fuscarino.
Different districts have leaned different ways on the issue.
“We’re seeing local school boards pass essentially anti-LGBTQ policies,” said Fuscarino.
The School District of Philadelphia allows students to change their pronouns without a parent’s permission, but in Central Bucks, parents must be notified if a student wants to change their pronouns.
“I think I should have more parental rights than a guidance counselor,” said Short.
Stavola said that Cherry Hill School District has 21 days to either respond to the lawsuit or file a motion to dismiss it. We reached out to Cherry Hill School District. The district declined to comment-citing the pending litigation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.