New District Policy Requires Staff to Reveal LGBTQ+ Status of School Students
TRENTON–Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced today the filing of a Division on Civil Rights (DCR) complaint challenging an unlawful policy enacted last night by the Hanover Township Board of Education. The policy requires school staff to notify parents of the gender identity and sexual orientation of LGBTQ+ students. Attorney General Platkin and DCR have also filed an emergency motion in Superior Court, requesting a preliminary injunction and temporary restraints to prevent the policy from going into effect while DCR’s challenge to the policy remains pending.
The administrative complaint and the motion for a preliminary injunction allege that the policy enacted by the Hanover Township Board of Education violates the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination’s (LAD) prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
As the complaint asserts, the policy discriminates against students on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, targeting transgender students and other students who identify as LGBTQ+ and requiring parental notification for LGBTQ+ youth but not their peers. The complaint also asserts that the parental notification policy has a disparate impact on LGBTQ+ youth: Because the policy requires school staff to “out” LGBTQ+ youth to their parents, it exposes them to severe harms to their safety and mental health. The policy also runs counter to guidance from the New Jersey Department of Education concerning the confidentiality and privacy of such information.
“We will always stand up for the LGBTQ+ community here in New Jersey and look forward to presenting our arguments in court in this matter,” said Attorney General Platkin. “We are extremely proud of the contributions LGBTQ+ students make to our classrooms and our communities, and we remain committed to protecting them from discrimination in our schools.”
In addition to filing an administrative civil rights complaint, DCR has also filed a motion in Superior Court requesting temporary restraints and a preliminary injunction against the policy’s implementation while the administrative complaint is being adjudicated by DCR.
As the brief in support of the State’s motion explains, the requested injunction from the court would preserve the status quo while the litigation is pending and thereby ensure that school staff are not forced to “out” LGBTQ+ youth to their parents while the administrative complaint is pending. The requested injunction would not prevent school staff from notifying parents about concerns unrelated to LAD-protected characteristics, nor would it prevent school staff from reporting illegal activity, firearms, or other comparable concerns to the appropriate authorities.
“Our state civil rights laws are clear: New Jersey does not tolerate discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression,” said Sundeep Iyer, Director of the Division on Civil Rights. “We will continue do everything in our power to enforce the robust protections our laws provide and to ensure that LGBTQ+ youth remain safe in our schools.”
The policy challenged today was enacted by the Board of Education on May 16, 2023. It provides that all school staff members shall “immediately, fully and accurately inform a student’s parent(s) whenever such staff member is made aware of, directly or indirectly, any facts or circumstances that may have a material impact on the student’s physical and/or mental health, safety and/or social/emotional well-being,” including, among other things, a student’s “sexuality,” “sexual orientation,” “transitioning,” and “gender identity or expression.”
The complaint filed today does not challenge other aspects of the policy that on their face do not violate the Law Against Discrimination, such as the requirements for parental notification related to “substance use,” “alcohol use,” “firearms,” or “unlawful activity.”
DCR is the state agency responsible for preventing and eliminating discrimination and bias-based harassment in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation (e.g., places open to the public like schools, businesses, hospitals, etc.). DCR enforces the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD), the New Jersey Family Leave Act (FLA), and the Fair Chance in Housing Act (FCHA).
The matter was handled by Division of Law Deputy Attorneys General James Michael, Douglas Praschak, and Daniel Resler under the supervision of Assistant Attorney General Mayur Saxena, as well as DCR Interim Senior Advisors for Affirmative Enforcement Iris Bromberg and Danielle Thorne under the supervision of Interim Chief of Strategic Initiatives Aarin Williams.