A parent of three kids in a New Jersey school district is suing the system over a policy that does not notify parents when transgender students change their name or preferred pronouns.
The federal lawsuit, filed in The United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, names Cherry Hill Public Schools as a defendant, and comes from concerned father Rick Short.
He contends the guidelines, modeled after a state policy, violate his rights as a parent and is seeking to rescind the policy or add a provision that demands parental involvement.
Cherry Hill, the 12th-largest system in the state, is the latest New Jersey school district involved in fighting over parental notification and LGBTQ+ policies, with several of its nearly 600 public school districts adopting the strategy.
Rick Short, a dad of three children enrolled in the Cherry Hill school district, contends the guidelines, modeled after a state policy, violate his rights as a parent, and is seeking to rescind the policy or add a provision that instills parental involvement
Cherry Hill Public School, the 12th-largest system in the state, is comprised of 18 schools from Pre-K to high school
Short, a father of four who previously ran for the city’s council, filed the suit on October 12, also naming the state DoE as a defendant.
It comes as the policy, known as Policy 5756, has come under criticism from parents and even some districts.
In comments to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Short spoke about the suit, as well as some of his qualms with the ‘student-centered’ transgender policy.
‘I don’t agree with the policy,’ Short told the paper Tuesday, as three of his four kids remain enrolled in one of the district’s 18 schools.
‘To me, it’s so out of whack that a parent doesn’t have the right to know what’s going on in their child’s life,’ he continued of the guidance.
‘I just want to know.’
According to the policy, which was adopted in 2019, ‘A transgender student shall be addressed at school by the name and pronoun chosen by the student, regardless of whether a legal name change or change in official school records has occurred.’
Barbara Wilson, a spokeswoman for the school district, reportedly declined to comment when asked about the looming lawsuit Tuesday – telling the publication that the system does not speak on pending litigations.
Lawyers for Short, meanwhile, claimed in their filing that the policy is violative of the father’s Fourteenth Amendment rights – which allow him to direct the care, upbringing and healthcare decisions of his school-aged children.
Speaking to PBS this past Friday, attorney Tom Stavola elaborated on that argument.
‘The legal constitutional basis is that this infringes upon the parent’s 14th Amendment substantive due process rights to direct the medical care and health care decisions of their children,’ Stavola explained.
‘We’re contending here that the plaintiff, the parent in this instance, who has three children in Cherry Hill High School, this policy unconstitutionally interferes with his right to direct the care and the upbringing and the medical decisions of his kids.’
Short, a father of four who previously ran for the city’s council, filed the suit on October 12, also naming the state DoE as a defendant. Short has two daughters and a son enrolled in the district, the latter of which he said is a freshman and has never indicated that he’s transgender
Back in June, New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin filed civil rights complaints to block four New Jersey public school districts from implementing similar policies, based on the claim that they discriminate against LGBTQ+ students
Lawyers for Short, meanwhile, claimed in their filing that the policy is violative of the father’s Fourteenth Amendment rights – which allow him to direct the care, upbringing and healthcare decisions of his school-aged children. Pictured is one of his attorneys, Tom Stavola
Short has two daughters and a son enrolled in the district, the latter of which he said is a freshman and has never indicated that he’s transgender.
‘I would know because he would tell me,’ he told the outlet, adding that he feels even less concerned about his older daughters.
‘The federal lawsuit was more or less thinking about it from my son,’ said Short, who has another adult daughter that recently finished school in the system.
‘I don’t know why,’ he added. ‘I guess because he was a freshman.’
The case is now poised to be heard by a judge in the state’s Third Circuit – and could pave the way for a potential Supreme Court case in the event of a loss and some subsequent appeals.
Short intends to argue that his kids could be harmed psychologically and forced to live a double life due to the district guidelines, by being forced to conceal their gender identity from him and their mother.
As mentioned, the policy, one of several seen in other states like Maryland, has come under increasing criticism from parents and activists alike, with district officials even questioning and refusing to adopt it.
Earlier this year, three districts in Monmouth County and one in Morris adopted or amended parental notification policies put in place thanks to New Jersey state laws – ones that required educators to out students based on their gender identity.
In townships like Hanover, Middletown, and Marlboro – along with the Manalapan-Englishtown Regional Boards of Education – officials ruled that staff must now notify parents when gender-nonconforming students wish to change their names, be called by new pronouns, or other, similar accommodations.
Back in June, New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin filed civil rights complaints to block the four districts from implementing those policies, based on the claim that they discriminate against LGBTQ+ students.
He also used kids’ mental health to bolster his argument, saying that nixing such guidelines could pose a threat to minors’ mindsets.
In August, the Superior Court granted a preliminary injunction prohibiting the new policies enacted in the four districts, stopping them from going into effect while the cases make their way through the state’s federal court system.
All of the cases, as of October, are currently still pending – but could offer some precedent for Short’s newly filed suit, which is also ongoing.
If the Cherry Hill case that’s going before the Third Circuit does move forward, experts say it could be used as an argument to remove the policy from the state law completely.
While the Supreme Court has established that parents rights are important.
There’s an entirely different line of cases that deal specifically with child rights and with the duty of the state and the state’s interest in safeguarding the physical and psychological well-being of a minor.
It also echoes one recently brought in the Fourth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals in Maryland, where a judge ruled that parents who filed similar complaints didn’t have the necessary legal standing, dismissing the case while citing how none of the parents had kids who were members of the transgender community.