UPDATE: Judge blocking district policy that NJ said would ‘out’ LGBT students to parents
A school board has a new policy requiring teachers to 'out' students to their parents
The Attorney General filed a civil complaint, saying the policy discriminates against LGBTQ+ students
The school board called the state's interpretation of the policy 'erroneous'
UPDATE: A judge has blocked a school district from implementing a policy that the state said would discriminate against LGBT students.
"We are gratified that the Superior Court has temporarily prohibited the Hanover Township Board of Education from implementing its policy requiring school staff to out LGBTQ+ youth to their parents," state Attorney General Matthew Platkin said Friday.
"That prohibition will remain in effect until the court has an opportunity to hear argument from the parties on May 30. We look forward to presenting our argument to the Court then."
Earlier story is below
The state Attorney General is taking legal action to stop a new Hanover school board policy requiring teachers to tell parents about their child's sexual or gender identity.
Passed at a Tuesday night Hanover school board meeting, the Parental Notification of Material Circumstances policy mandates that teachers must tell parents if their child is LGBTQ+.
Then Wednesday afternoon, Attorney General Matthew Platkin announced that the Division of Civil Rights had filed a complaint challenging the school policy. In a statement, the Attorney General's Office called the policy "unlawful."
The OAG holds that the policy is discriminatory because it affects LGBTQ+ youth and not other students in the K-8 district and "exposes them to severe harms to their safety and mental health."
“We are extremely proud of the contributions LGBTQ+ students make to our classrooms and our communities, and we remain committed to protecting them from discrimination in our schools," Platkin said.
Guidance from the state Department of Education also requires school staff to be mindful of a student's preference for privacy regarding gender identity.
"School district personnel should have an open, but confidential discussion with the student to ascertain the student’s preference on matters such as chosen name, chosen pronoun to use, and parental communications," the guidance states.
School board pushes back on Platkin
In a joint letter to the community, the Hanover school board Wednesday said that Platkin's complaint included "erroneous assertions."
"Rather, a simple reading of Policy 8463 reveals that it requires school staff members to notify appropriate school administrators and a student’s parents whenever the staff member is made aware of any facts or circumstances that may have a material impact on a student’s physical and/or mental health and/or social/emotional well-being," the letter said.
Those circumstances include substance use, alcohol use, pornography, situations involving firearms, depression, anti-social behaviors, gang affiliation, and a long list of other possible factors. However, it does specifically mention sexuality, sexual orientation, transitioning, and gender identity or expression.
The letter stated that the school board would "vigorously defend this common-sense policy that protects parental rights and ensures the safety of all school children." It was not signed by any specific board members.
Hanover school board President Lisa Bomengo and Superintendent Michael Wasko did not respond to requests for comment.
Murphy puts weight behind Platkin
Regardless of the school board's statement, Governor Murphy gave his support to the OAG's complaint Wednesday.
"Hanover Township Board of Education's new policy requiring staff to "out" LGBTQ students to their parents violates the rights of our students — jeopardizing their well-being and mental health," Murphy said on Twitter.
Along with the civil rights complaint, the OAG has also filed an emergency motion to request a preliminary injunction and prevent the policy from taking effect until a court decision is made.
NJ GOP defends Hanover school board
Sens. Joe Pennacchio and Ed Durr both released statements defending the policy and the school board.
“Attorney General Platkin is trying to make this an LGBTQ issue, but that is not what the policy is about,” said Pennacchio, R-Morris. “Hanover should be applauded for making a real effort to ensure that parents are informed of anything that could impact the mental or physical well-being of their children."
Durr, R-Gloucester, added that Hanover was "absolutely right" to implement the policy so parents could be up-to-date on the well-being of their children.
“It’s no surprise that the Murphy administration is again opposing transparency and parental rights,” Durr said. “While Governor Murphy and Attorney General Platkin seem to believe that the cold embrace of a government social worker is all that any child needs to thrive, we believe parents are the best caregivers for their children."
Rick Rickman is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at email@example.com
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