Just days after three New Jersey public school systems simultaneously enacted policies requiring educators to notify parents of changes in their children’s gender identity, the state is pursuing legal action.
New Jersey State Attorney General Matthew Platkin announced the complaints against the Middletown Township, Marlboro Township and Manalapan-Englishtown Regional boards of education, all in Monmouth County.
In a series of complaints filed in a New Jersey Superior Court, the state alleges policies requiring staff to notify parents when students express desire to change names, pronouns or bathroom and/or locker accommodations “target transgender, gender non-conforming, and gender non-binary students by singling them out for differential treatment, requiring parental notification for those students but not their peers.”
In separate companion legal briefs, Platkin also petitions the court to temporarily halt the policy changes from taking effect while legal challenges play out.
“In New Jersey, we will not tolerate any action by schools that threatens the health and safety of our young people. Without question, the discriminatory policies passed by these Boards of Education, if allowed to go into effect, will harm our kids and pose severe risk to their safety,” said Attorney General Platkin in a statement. “Simply put, these policies violate our laws, and we will not relent in protecting our LGBTQ+ community – especially our children – from discrimination.”
When contacted by phone on Friday, a representative of the Manalapan-Englishtown Regional School District declined to comment on the matter.
CNN has reached out to the Middletown Township Public School District.
Marc H. Zitomer, who represents the Marlboro Townhip Board of Education, told CNN he disagrees with the attorney general’s argument that schools are discriminating against LQBTQ+ students.
“We also have an exception in our policy if such notification would endanger the health or safety of the child,” Zitomer says.
“However, it is our position that keeping parents in the dark about important issues involving their children is counterintuitive and contrary to well established Supreme Court case law that says that parents have a constitutional right to direct and control the upbringing of their children,” adds Zitomer.
During a Tuesday school board meeting, Valentina Mendez, who chairs Marlboro Township School’s policy committee, defended the changes as taking a “family-centered approach.”
“Because Marlboro Public School District is a PreK-8 District with no high school,” said Mendez, “the board believes that greater parental involvement is important and required because of the age and maturity of the student body.”
During public remarks, a member who identifies as part of Marlboro’s LGBTQ+ community expressed concern that children will feel forced to out themselves before they are ready and erode the confidence they have in their teachers.
“Students have very delicate relationships with their teachers now more than ever before,” said the community member. “My teachers are in this room. I trusted them with my life. We’re going to break that trust. We’re going to shatter that trust.”
Other Marlboro community members expressed support for the changes, saying they are “practical” and will strengthen trust between teachers, students, and their parents.
In May, state officials also filed a civil rights complaint after similar changes were enacted at the Hanover Township Board of Education.
The litigation challenging that policy remains pending. A Superior Court, however, issued a temporary restraining order barring that board of education from enforcing that policy while it considers the matter.