You may have heard about the recent state elections in Virginia. In the governor’s race, one of the key points of contention between Republican Glenn Youngkin and former Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe was the role of parents in their children’s education. During a debate on September 29, McAuliffe, discussing the ability of parents to remove books from their children’s school that they deem inappropriate, said, “I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” In the end, McAuliffe lost the race, and many credit this line from the debate as a key turning point in the election.
We are starting to notice this attitude more and more in our political discourse around education. Parents are increasingly seen as obstacles to the educational goals that “professionals” have for their children.
This is how parents were treated in Loudoun County, Virginia. In a mid-August school board meeting, hundreds of parents, community members, teachers, and school staff were forced to wait outside in a storm while only being allowed into the air-conditioned board meeting in small groups.
What brought out hundreds of concerned community members? A growing concern about school policies and teaching radical ideologies about race, gender, and sexuality.
Parents aren’t the only ones who are being targeted. In August, the Loudoun County School Board enacted a policy requiring public school teachers to refer to “gender-expansive or transgender” students using whatever pronoun the students choose, regardless of whether the pronoun is consistent with the student’s biological sex.
Tanner Cross is a teacher who voiced his concerns and objections to this policy and was swiftly suspended less than 48 hours later. With the help of Alliance Defending Freedom, Tanner was reinstated by a court order which was later affirmed by the Virginia Supreme Court. The Loudoun County School Board settled Tanner’s reinstatement claim by agreeing to a permanent injunction prohibiting it from retaliating against Cross for expressing his constitutionally protected views on the board’s gender pronoun policy. ADF continues to challenge the board’s ongoing application of the policy itself on behalf of Tanner and two other teachers, Monica Gill and Kim Wright.
Policies like this violate a teacher’s freedom of speech. That is why ADF is representing teachers like Tanner, Monica, and Kim to protect their right to voice their concerns and opposition to these policies. They love their students and care deeply for them but will not lie to them by referring to any person using a pronoun that is inconsistent with the person’s biological sex.
But for some school boards, this isn’t enough. Not only are they implementing policies that force teachers to address students by any terms specified from an ever-expanding universe of pronouns; in some cases, they are also trying to hide it from their parents! With the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, ADF has filed complaints in two cases in the state of Wisconsin ( B.F. v. Kettle Moraine School District and Doe v. Madison Metropolitan School District), challenging school policies that instruct teachers to change a child’s pronouns at school while hiding that information from the child’s parents. These policies even allow the school to reject a parent’s request to stop using pronouns that are inconsistent with the child’s biological sex.
Such policies violate a parent’s fundamental right and duty to care for their children. The U.S. Supreme Court declared in Troxel v. Granville (2000) that, “the liberty interest … of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court.” Parental rights are pre-political and guaranteed by our Constitution.
School boards should not be treating parents like a hurdle to be crushed in the pursuit of a radical agenda. Children are first and foremost the responsibility of their parents. Parents know their children best and love them far more than school officials ever could. Their direction for raising their own children should not be intentionally contradicted by school officials.
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ADF is committed to protecting the fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing, care, and education of their children.
ADF’s Center for Legislative Advocacy is working in state legislatures across the country, advocating for legislation that ensures the government cannot infringe on fundamental parental rights.