ADF urges court to protect parents’ right to direct upbringing of their children in Chico School District case

Should school districts inform parents about their children’s gender decisions? A case involving the Chico Unified School District is before the U.S. Court of Appeals. Here’s information about a friend-of-the-court brief filed in the case.

A friend-of-the-court brief alleges Chico Unified School District administrators violated parental rights when they began to treat an 11-year-old girl as a boy, directing employees to use a different name and male pronouns — without telling her mother.

Kate Anderson, director of the Alliance Defending Freedom Center for Parental Rights, said ADF attorneys filed a friend-of-the-court brief Monday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on behalf of The Justice Foundation in Regino v. Staley supporting the right of parents to make decisions about how their children are raised.

“Parents have a fundamental right to direct the upbringing, care and education of their children. Chico Unified School District administrators violated this right when they began to treat an 11-year-old girl as a boy, directing employees to use a different name and male pronouns — without even telling her mother, Aurora Regino,” said Anderson. “When schools keep important information secret, parents like Ms. Regino can’t decide what’s best for their children, including how best to address their mental health needs. The decision to intervene in a child’s mental healthcare should never be made behind her parents’ backs.

“In Ms. Regino’s case, the lower court failed to recognize this nation’s long history and tradition supporting parents’ right to make decisions about — and thus to be informed about — their children’s mental health and education.

“The state should not be allowed to keep parents in the dark about their children’s wellbeing. We urge the 9th Circuit to reverse the lower court’s decision for its failure to respect parents’ constitutionally protected freedom to make the best decisions for their own kids.”

Excerpts from the brief
” … this case highlight(s) a disturbing national trend of public school districts subverting parental rights. A Wisconsin state trial court, for example, just recently granted two families’ motion for summary judgment and enjoined a school district policy that required staff — without parental consent and even over an express objection — to treat students as though they were a gender identity different from their sex.”

“And federal courts have also ruled in favor of teachers’ challenges to similar policies, both in California and elsewhere … Just like the parents and teachers in those cases, longstanding constitutional principles support Aurora Regino, who challenges defendants’ refusal to provide complete information to her about her daughter’s education and wellbeing here … Her right to ‘direct the education and upbringing of [her] children’ is entitled to no less protection than any other unenumerated right the Supreme Court has recognized as fundamental … Indeed, it is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by the Supreme Court … this Court should hold that the district court’s failure to apply strict scrutiny to plaintiff ’s parental- rights claim was error, reverse the judgment below and remand for further proceedings.

“The accompanying amicus brief is desirable for three reasons. First, it provides this Court with important historical and legal background surrounding parental rights. It shows how both the Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit’s precedents properly acknowledge that parental rights are deeply rooted in our nation’s history and tradition and are, therefore, fundamental.

“Second, the accompanying brief explains the extent of the district court’s error in failing to apply strict scrutiny, the correct tier of scrutiny, to parents’ fundamental rights. Instead, the district court applied the “shocks the conscience” test despite this Court’s precedent limiting that test to claims that do not implicate a fundamental right and consistent case law across the country reaffirming that application.

“Third, the accompanying brief explains how the education and mental health decisions in this case clearly implicate parental rights. The district court’s error, if uncorrected, would set a dangerous precedent for government policies that violate the Constitution, especially those which threaten parental rights.”

About Alliance Defending Freedom
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights and the sanctity of life.