Eighth Circuit Court Rules Iowa School District’s Gender Identity Policy “Unconstitutionally Vague

In a landmark decision, the Eighth Circuit Court strikes down Linn-Mar Community School District's gender identity policy.

In a unanimous decision on Friday, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Linn-Mar Community School District’s policy, which mandates students and staff to “respect” their peers’ gender identity, is “unconstitutionally vague.”

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The policy, adopted in April 2022, required adherence to a student’s gender identity, even if it differed from their biological sex, without clearly defining what “respect” entails.

The conservative advocacy group Parents Defending Education (PDE) initiated a lawsuit against the district in August 2022, challenging the policy’s ambiguity.

Despite a lower court’s refusal in February 2023 to grant PDE’s request for a preliminary injunction against the policy, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned this decision on September 29, 2023.

The appellate court’s ruling emphasized the policy’s potential misuse in disciplining students for expressing their personal religious or moral beliefs about gender identity.

The court also highlighted the policy’s lack of clarity on the term “respect,” which could lead to arbitrary enforcement.

Furthermore, the court noted that the policy’s provision to keep “gender support plans” hidden from parents and the potential disciplinary actions, including suspension and expulsion for non-compliance, presented a “credible threat of enforcement.”

While over a dozen state attorneys general backed PDE’s lawsuit, asserting that the policy deprived parents of essential rights concerning their children, the court deemed this argument “moot” after the recent passage of SF 496 by the Iowa legislature.

Known as the “Classroom Instruction on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” bill, the law prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.

It was signed into effect by Governor Kim Reynolds on May 26, 2023.

This legislation prohibits lessons on gender identity and sexual orientation in K-6 grade classrooms.

Nicole Neily, PDE’s president, expressed satisfaction with the court’s decision, emphasizing its significance for “the rights of families and students.”

Neily stated, “Parental exclusion policies are a loser in the court of public opinion – and I have no doubt that they will eventually be struck down in the court of law as well.”

This landmark ruling not only stands as a triumph for PDE and similar conservative entities but may also influence other school districts nationwide with analogous policies.

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