A heated battle is escalating through America’s culture wars revolving around whether public school children hold the right to choose their own names and pronouns that assume their gender identity or if parents should be the ones to decide. Now, the U.S. Supreme Court is getting involved.
A Raging Debate
This raging debate has already been confronted by three separate federal appeals courts, plunging school administrators into a tough dilemma.
Caught between the wishes and needs of students on the one hand and the demands of parents on the other, schools find themselves at the center of this storm.
Concerned parents argue that using a child’s preferred pronouns without their knowledge constitutes unauthorized medical intervention, violating state laws.
Conversely, their children assert their rights to be respected for their gender identities, with state laws backing a non-discriminatory school environment.
Struggles WIth Gender Identity
With 22 states and the District of Columbia enacting protective laws against gender identity-based harassment, this legal standoff holds far-reaching implications.
This crucial debate gained momentum through a specific case involving parents Stephen Foote and Marissa Silvestri, who took legal action against entities affiliated with Ludlow, Massachusetts, public schools.
The legal battle ignited after their 11-year-old child approached a teacher during COVID to discuss their struggles with gender identity, among other important feelings.
The child also reached out to their teacher about important topics that any child should be free to discuss with whomever they feel comfortable with, including depression, anxiety, and same-sex attraction.
Violating the 14th Amendment
The parents cited a violation of three distinct 14th Amendment rights: the fundamental right to steer their children’s education, medical decisions, and familial privacy.
The parents asked the school staff to immediately stop having private chats with their child about these topics after the school informed them that the child was going to get professional help.
The child, who was 11, sent a brave email to the school, coming out as queer and listing the pronouns they would prefer teachers to use.
The school counselor informed all staff that they should use the correct new name and pronouns for the child. However, following the school’s policy, the parents should not be informed.
A Mark of Respect
U.S. District Judge Mark G. Mastroianni delivered a pivotal ruling favoring the school. He emphasized the importance of addressing individuals using their preferred names and pronouns, a basic mark of respect in society.
He dismissed claims of parental rights interference unless they reached an ‘astounding’ level of arbitrariness.
The dismissal order is currently under appeal at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit, with the 4th Circuit already dismissing a similar case. Another case remains pending in the 11th Circuit.
Given the political nuances and the legal intricacies surrounding this matter, an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court seems inevitable.
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / JessicaGirvan