AG Knudsen leads 23-state coalition in support of parents’ right to direct upbringing of their children
HELENA – Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen led a coalition of 23 state attorneys general in filing an amicus brief today in support of a California mother who was wrongly shut out of her child’s gender identity decision by a school district, violating her longstanding and fundamental right to direct the care of the child.
Earlier this year, Aurora Regino filed a lawsuit against officials at the Chico Unified School District in California, which violated her constitutional rights when district officials allowed her daughter to socially transition to a boy without informing Regino of her daughter’s decision, following the district’s flawed policy not to inform parents of such decisions unless given express permission by the student. The school’s counselor even advised the child against telling her mother and confiding in another family member instead.
To make matters worse, the daughter’s feeling about being a boy diminished throughout the semester, amplifying her gender-related stress and anxiety since by that time her school community viewed her as a boy. The attorneys general are asking the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to reverse a decision by a district court which wrongly ruled in favor of the school district.
“Parents have a fundamental, constitutional right to be involved in that decision making process when a child considers transitioning gender. But strong-armed by ideologically driven advocacy groups, school districts across the country have trampled on these rights by withholding information from parents and shutting them out of the process,” Attorney General Knudsen said. “The lower court made a grave error in denying this mother’s right, and by extension all other parents’ right, to direct the upbringing of her minor child—a right the Supreme Court has described as ‘essential’ and ‘precious.’”
The school district violated Regino’s longstanding and fundamental right to direct the care and custody of her child. A century ago, the United States Supreme Court grounded a long-standing common law right in the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, securing parents the right to direct the care and custody of their minor children. Since then, the Court has reaffirmed that parental right time and time again.
The law correctly assumes that children do not have the same capacity for making difficult decisions that adults do, which is why there are many restrictions on children’s rights including the right to vote, enlist in the military without parental consent, or to drink alcohol. Additionally, that same principle is traditionally applied in school since parental consent is routinely required before a student can receive medication or participate in some school activities.
“School districts can’t shut a parent out of their child’s decision about their gender identity because the school believes the parent isn’t supportive enough of an immediate gender transition,” Attorney General Knudsen wrote in the brief. “The District’s policy infringes on Regino’s substantive due process rights by withholding critical information about whether her children have taken any action concerning their gender identity, leaving Regino (and other parents) completely in the dark about her children’s mental and emotional well-being.”
The school district also violated Regino’s fundamental rights by making decisions about her daughter’s gender identity behind her back. The school district’s policy “requires all District personnel to refer to a student by a new name and pronouns at school if the student informs them of their new identity and preferred name and pronouns.” However, the school district may not inform the parents of their child’s decision “unless the student specifically authorizes the disclosure, except where disclosure to parents is ‘otherwise required by law’ or there is ‘compelling evidence that disclosure is necessary to preserve the student’s physical or mental well-being’” giving ultimate decision-making authority to the child and depriving parents of their “longstanding, primary role in ensuring their child’s safety and well-being.”
These dangerous policies have been adopted by school districts across the country, violating the parents’ rights and preventing them from helping their children make crucial decisions about their identity and mental health.
“The explosion of these policies appears to stem from ideologically driven advocacy groups claiming that federal law requires this result. One such group, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), promotes a so-called “model” policy—similar to the District’s—which falsely claims that disclosing a student’s ‘gender identity and transgender status’ without the student’s consent may violate the Family Education Rights Privacy Act (FERPA),” the attorneys general wrote. “These federal statutes—no matter how laudable their aims—cannot displace parents’ longstanding right to care for their children.”
Attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia also joined Knudsen’s effort.
Click here to read the brief.
Attorney General Knudsen is a national leader in the fight for parents’ Constitutional rights. In May, he filed a brief in support of two Florida parents who were stripped of their fundamental and longstanding right to direct the upbringing and care of their child when school officials secretly held meetings with their child about gender identity. He has also filed similar briefs in Massachusetts and Iowa against school districts stripping parents of their parental rights to direct the upbringing and care of their children. Last year he joined a 14-state effort to force President Joe Biden and his administration to turn over records related to the administration’s schemes to prevent parents from speaking out against leftist indoctrination in public schools. He also led a 17-state coalition against a Biden administration rule that infringes on parental rights and conflicts with the text, purpose, and longstanding interpretation of Title IX.