School Policy Trumps Parent

According to the father, daughter “Jane Doe” had issues that were being addressed by dad and her therapist after mom passed. But the school had rules, and District of New Jersey Judge Georgette Castner denied a temporary restraining order after finding the father unlikely to prevail.

Jane Doe is a freshman at Delaware Valley Regional High School in Frenchtown, New Jersey. Jane is a minor diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Unspecified Mental Disorder (UMD), and has been under the care of a therapist for anxiety, depression, and gender confusion since April 2022. {The Court refers to Plaintiff’s child as “Jane Doe,” consistent with Plaintiff’s Verified Complaint and the parties’ briefing.} Plaintiff John Doe is Jane’s father. Plaintiff alleges that he and mental health professionals “agreed to take a cautious approach to Jane’s gender confusion” given her mental health diagnoses and the trauma following the death of Jane’s mother.

At school, Jane participated in an extracurricular club known as “Students Advocating for Equality,” or “SAFE,” which “promote[s] open discussion and awareness about modern cultures and topics surrounding intersectionality while aiming to make positive contributions to [the] community and school.” Defendant Ashley Miranda is a school counselor and the staff advisor of SAFE.

Who would possibly know what’s best for a confused high school freshman with mental health issues than a school counselor?

According to the Complaint, “Jane attended a SAFE meeting and expressed to … Miranda that she would like to undergo a social transition from female to male in school.” Plaintiff alleges that Miranda “immediately affirmed Jane’s expressed identity and began to facilitate Jane’s social transition” and “asked Jane if she would like to change her name and pronouns and be known only as a male at school, to which Jane agreed.” Plaintiff alleges that Miranda subsequently emailed the entire high school staff, except two teachers, informing them of Jane’s name change, but that Plaintiff was not notified.

Not only did Miranda facilitate Jane’s transition, but withheld that information and she made sure Jane’s father wouldn’t know. After all, what’s a father got to do with it? Dad, who not only happened to be Jane’s parent but also part of the team with her actual therapist who counseled against this knee-jerk change, eventually learned what had been concealed from him and sued, seeking a TRO as the school had already socially transitioned Jane with a male name and pronouns.

Judge Castner was not impressed.

In this case, Plaintiff asserts a liberty interest in “the care, custody, and control of” his child, which “is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests” protected by the Due Process Clause. In support, Plaintiff cites to Supreme Court precedent recognizing a parent’s general right to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children.

But the question before the Court is not whether there is a general parental right related to the care, custody, and control of children. The question is whether Plaintiff has a fundamental constitutional right that requires the Board Defendants to obtain Plaintiff’s consent prior to recognizing and referring to Jane as to her preferred gender.

It’s one thing to hold that a public school has the authority to pursue its core functions of education, the purpose for which it exists and the justification for requiring children to attend. But is transitioning a child from female to male part of the function? Is doing so against the parent’s choice part? Is concealing that the school has taken a father’s daughter and turned her into a boy part?

Here, Board Policy 5756 does not impose the kind of “constraint or compulsion” that the Supreme Court and the Third Circuit have found violative of parental rights. The Policy does not require Jane to engage in an activity that Plaintiff does not want her to engage in, nor does it prohibit Jane from engaging in an activity that Plaintiff wants her to engage in. Rather, Board Policy 5657 directs the school to refer to students by … their preferred gender identity without requiring the school to obtain a parent’s consent or to affirmatively notify parents.

In contrast, Plaintiff asks the Court to “impose a constitutional obligation on state actors to contact parents of a minor” who requests to be recognized by a different gender identity, regardless of the minor’s preference as to parental notification. Based on the current record and posture of this case, the Court is not convinced that imposing such an affirmative obligation is within “the scope of the familial liberty interest protected under the Constitution.”

As Judge Castner explained, there is no clear precedent as to the scope of a parent’s constitutional right to either make these decisions for a minor child or, if the minor child makes them for herself, be informed. But that leaves the court without a clear mandate, meaning that the judge is free to decide whether the absence of clear precedent means the school gets to impose whatever policy choice it prefers on someone else’s child, or the parent does.

Here, Judge Castner decided she prefers siding with the school against the father, siding with the school’s policy choice to take a high school freshman with mental health issues and facilitate her transition to male in secret despite the father and her therapist’s positions to the contrary. Or as the court held, the school merely did what Jane, the high school freshman, wanted to do.

Here, Plaintiff has not established that the Board Defendants engaged in the type of proactive intrusion into private family matters that the Third Circuit found dispositive in Gruenke. The record so far indicates that the Board Defendants only began referring to Jane by her preferred gender identity at Jane’s request, did not coerce Jane into making the request, and did not prevent or discourage Jane from discussing the transition with Plaintiff. Plaintiff does not allege otherwise in the Complaint or the sworn declarations. Although Plaintiff, in his brief, makes a conclusory remark that the “Board Defendants convinced Jane … that she should transition,” Plaintiff cannot amend his pleadings by way of his brief, nor has Plaintiff alleged a factual basis to substantiate this assertion. The present record lacks particularized facts suggesting that the Board Defendants prompted Jane to initiate her request or proactively encouraged her to socially transition. Instead, Plaintiff alleges that “Jane attended a SAFE meeting and expressed to defendant Miranda that she would like to undergo a social transition.” To the extent the Board Defendants “continue[] insisting on socially transitioning Jane,” they are doing so only at Jane’s affirmative request….

Did the fact that Jane, after attending a SAFE meeting, decided that she was a boy rather than a girl change the school’s responsibility and control over this student? Dad will be dad for the rest of his life. The school will wash their hands of whatever mess it’s facilitated because it wasn’t them, but this young girl with mental health issues who made her own choice.



19 thoughts on “School Policy Trumps Parent

  1. MollyGodiva

    The judge made the correct decision. All the school was doing was respecting the wishes of the student. Many students with gender dysphoria do not have supportive parents, and facts of this case do not indicate that the dad was supportive. The opposite seems more likely. The parent is in contact with her therapist, which in itself is wrong, since that does not make the therapy a safe place for the teen. It also says that the parent and the therapist decided to take it slow, there is not indication that the teen agreed. Many teens are abused, beaten, and/or kicked out the the house for expressing non-conformist gender views. It is not the role of the school to tattle to the parent at put teens at risk, but rather they need to be a safe and supportive environment.

    1. Ron

      Drinking the transgender kool-aid isn’t a legal doctrine. If a high school freshman wants to kill herself, should the school respect her wishes and give her a weapon because her parent isn’t supportive? How many children should have their lives destroyed because the current fashion trend is to believe anything that favors transgenders? Who will be there later to pick up the pieces of a ruined life for a bad childish decision by a troubled kid? You won’t.

      1. Miles

        Ron, Ron, Ron. You just don’t get it. Young people are too immature to be responsible for murder because they make impulsive, childish decisions, but when they want to change genders, even in the midst of mental health issues, there is nothing more absolute and untouchable. Only bad people question any suggestion that a girl wants to be a boy, anyone who isn’t supportive is a fascist and transphobe. And any unsupportive parents is abusive and probably a pedo.

        Do better, Ron.

    2. DaveL

      You’re assuming that the child does, in fact, have gender dysphoria. And that these really are the wishes of the child and not the result of influence or coaching on the part of the school. And that “affirmation” of an alternative identity is in the child’s therapeutic best interest. And that contact with anybody skeptical of transition is somehow “unsafe” and puts the child “at risk”.

      Those are not facts, they are axioms of an ideology. An ideology that neither the school not the court has any business imposing on the parent-child relationship.

    3. Elpey P.

      “for expressing non-conformist gender views”

      Our institutions and their enablers are now so incoherent that they think they are supporting “non conformist gender views” while demonizing the concept of “gender critical.”

      So what we have is a denominational takeover that still hates atheists just as much as the old one did. That’s the upstream problem that a procedural court decision won’t fix.

    4. PAV

      A parent who was not supportive of his child wouldn’t have afforded her a therapist and sued a school in an attempt to get it to go along with the actual therapist’s recommendations.

      Given she has an actual therapist who is actually working with her, not a school counselor who saw her once in her life and decided to go whole hog, it is the school that is maintaining an unsafe environment and putting her at risk by flouting the therapist’s recommendations.

      1. MollyGodiva

        You are missing the point where the dad is an active participant in the therapy and therapy plans. This means that the teen is not getting proper therapy if their dad has access to the therapist and what is said in therapy. Also it never said that the teen agreed with the approach that the dad and therapist want.
        And a parent suing the school to force a teen to take a treatment path they do not agree with? That is not good parenting.

        1. L. Phillips

          “Plaintiff John Doe is Jane’s father. Plaintiff alleges that he and mental health professionals ‘agreed to take a cautious approach to Jane’s gender confusion’ given her mental health diagnoses and the trauma following the death of Jane’s mother.”

          From that statement you determined that the father has access to the therapist AND WHAT IS SAID IN THERAPY? That is a very big jump. By the way, there were therapists, plural. Do you conject that all were reporting the detailed contents of every contact with the daughter to the father?

          Since we are in the realm, it is awfully hard for me, a father of one son and one daughter, to even consider not being in contact with mental health professionals attempting to assist either of my children when they were minors. If for nothing else, to obtain information about what actions they felt I could take to assist outside of the actual therapy.

        2. DaveL

          Because being an active participant in plans for the mental health treatment of a minor is the proper role for a public school teacher, not a parent, am I right?

        3. Rengit

          This is not how parent-facilitated child therapy works, you are making extreme judgments about a fact that would be inappropriate were it, for example, a husband going to see a therapist and his wife insisting on being involved in the therapy. But that’s not what this is. This is a school therapist who, by all counts, the father encouraged his child to go see; the opinion states that the *therapist AND the father* mutually agreed on a cautious approach to transition. A parent has to be involved in their child’s therapy, as what comes out of that therapy, whether that be “your child is depressed about their mother’s death, here’s how to talk to them” or how to handle their autistic thoughts or how to approach their gender transition, is going to intimately involve the parent. You’re trying to spin this as potential abuse that the father is taking an active role in his child’s mental and emotional problems.

    5. karl william liebhardt

      square what you said with the myriad of laws that diminsh teen responsibility. A “safe environment,” doesn’t necessarily mean caving into every desire a child expresses. If it did, this teen might still be unweened and in diapers.

  2. Pedantic Grammar Police

    10 years ago maybe parents had a right to be upset about what public schools were doing to their kids. At this point, any parents who send their children to public school can only blame themselves for the consequences. Even private schools now have to be carefully evaluated before trusting them to influence and guide children through the most difficult and vulnerable times of their lives. Home schooling is the best and safest strategy.

  3. RJ

    This post is very disturbing but, unfortunately from what I have experienced as a member of board of education for a K-8 district in New Jersey, unsurprising. The policy at issue is a standard one based on NJ Dept of Ed regulations which in turn are based (again, shockingly but not surprising) on the guidance of LGBT advocacy organziations like Glaad. This policy basically prescribes the most radical positions on these issues (students’ names can be changed to preferred ones, without telling the parents, for example) and if the local district tries to alter the policy they are faced with lawsuits and ethics complaints. The entire educational system in NJ is a wall of progressivism, from the superintendents and administrators, to the law firms they choose to represent them, to the state board of ed members who are not elected but hand-picked by the (almost alwasy Democratic) governor. And oh yeah most of the judges as well.

  4. karl william liebhardt

    The “woodland unified joint school district” is recalling a board member named MacDonald because she questioned going “whole hog,” into the trans agenda, as it relates to school children. When people move from belief based on empirical grounds to belief, based on emotional faith, they are moving into religious territory.

    Behold the increasing public capture of absurdity wearing the noble mantle of emotionality, peace, love and inclusion while it erodes objective truth. Like Abrahamic religions, it takes a dualistic approach, rooted in good vs evil. It possesses a doctrine, it’s own language, value system and ethics, ingroup, outgroup, priests, apostles, acolytes, martyrs, growing control of governmental, scientific, academic and corporate institutions, as well. It asks people to ignore their built-in, visceral responses of disgust or suspicion as an unfounded fear or “phobia,” by using pop psychology to uphold their discrimination against anyone who chooses to say “I don’t see the emperor’s new clothes. I believe it is still in search of a supreme being (Dylan Mulvaney? Afterall, “God” should not have to be any particular gender or species) The problem isn’t necessarily related to Marx, The Frankfurt School, postmodern interpretations of reality, or the creation of terms like “gender” out of “sexuality.” The language it uses to appeal begins with humane ” love, care,” and begins to conflate this with love and sex, where it deems appropriate. The original terms are then used and conflated with terms such as “inclusion, equality, equity, diversity, sex, sexualty, gender, gender types (now exploding. I counted 24 new flags in just last 4 years) under the lens of identity politics. It has been weaponized to push the direction of narrative discourse in the (seemingly) desired direction, the way totalitarian, theocracies work. Presently, it is a massive movement, that is evolving, by an appeal to emotionality and our increasingly alien and atomized, world. It conflates the private individual, to the public group, to artificial intelligence and public institutions; so that any intellectual that speaks out against it, risks becoming a dismissed pariah. What began with a private individual: man, or woman having an interest in people of their sex or believing they were the opposite sex, has moved into the public domain via a postmodern dialectic. Now it encompasses the public group ie public institutions, as a template. This ideological lens that purportedly separates the bad from the good, appears to be swallowing large swathes of our current populace. I never understood the saying “…a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”- Emerson. But now I think I’m getting it.

      1. karl william liebhardt

        Yes…my apologies. Ive been using apps on my phone where the enter button posts the message. I forget that isnt an issue on my laptop. Thanks for cordial response. I’ll work on it.

    1. Carlyle Moulton

      Maybe I’m showing my age but I consider both sides in the war between woke and anti-woke to be certifiably insane.

  5. cthulhu

    Sometimes I wish I weren’t an atheist so I could take slight comfort in believing such vile people as Judge Castner and Ashley Miranda will eventually burn in hell for eternity.

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