Metro Weekly

Federal judge tosses anti-transgender lawsuit challenging school district’s pro-trans policies

Parents couldn't state a specific way that Williamston Community Schools' policies violated their civil rights

A university corridor – Photo: Rebecca Campbell, via Unsplash

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by a group of parents protesting a Michigan school district’s gender identity policies, claiming they violate their religious beliefs.

The lawsuit was brought by four parents in 2018 after the Williamston Community Schools Board of Education in Michigan adopted a policy adding sexual orientation and gender identity to a list of protected categories in its anti-bullying and equal opportunity policies.

Other pro-transgender policies allowed students to be referred to by names and pronouns consistent with their gender identity, and gave students alternatives to gender-segregated bathrooms or locker rooms if they felt uncomfortable.

The parents who brought the lawsuit claimed that the pro-transgender policies sought to “silence and punish” their “sincerely held religious beliefs and viewpoint,” and violate their freedom fo religion and expression by forcing their children to affirm “alternative sexual lifestyles” or face punishment. Two of the parents behind the lawsuit have since moved their children from the district after the policies were adopted. 

The lawsuit did not cite any specific instance in which a conservative student was disciplined. The parents were also unable to cite any instance of a transgender student using a bathroom that matched their gender identity, rather than the gender-neutral alternative restrooms. And it was vague in terms of how the plaintiffs’ free speech rights or freedom of expression are allegedly being infringed upon.

Due to these reasons, as well as failure to name a specific injury that the parents or their children suffered due to Williamston Community Schools’ policy, Judge Hala Jarbou, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, ruled that the lawsuit should be dismissed, according to the Lansing State Journal.

See also: Transgender Texas teen says she’s been banned from school until she adheres to male dress code

The district hailed the judge’s decision as a victory for their students.

“The federal court affirmed the District’s intent to provide a safe and inclusive learning environment for all students,” Williamston Community Schools said in an official statement. “The policies cited in the lawsuit have proven to be effective measures during the three years since they were adopted. They provide guidance to staff and protections for all students. The District continues to equitably serve all students and greatly values the ongoing support of our students, parents, and the Williamston community.”

David Kallman, an attorney for the parents, said that Jarbou’s dismissal of the lawsuit would not be the last word on the matter. Although they did not cite any specific injury they suffered as a result of the policies, his clients intend to refile the lawsuit if the school district attempts to enforce them.

“Until the school actually tries to enforce the policy, I guess we just bide our time and see if they do or don’t,” Kallman told the Lansing State Journal. “But I don’t think schools pass policies they don’t intend to use.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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