Mesa Governing Board Member Sues District For Encouraging Students To Keep Gender Identity From Parents

mesa public schools
Mesa Public Schools board member Rachel Walden shared a picture of a form involving "denied parental knowledge," on Twitter.

A member of the Mesa Public Schools governing board, Rachel Walden, through her attorneys with America First Legal has filed a lawsuit against the district and Superintendent Andi Fourlis for allegedly “encouraging and assisting students to identify as members of the opposite sex without notifying parents.”

Mesa Public Schools MPS is the largest school district in Arizona, with roughly 55,000 students. The City of Mesa is the third-largest in Arizona and the second-largest in the Phoenix metropolitan area. A 2014 study found that Mesa is the most conservative large city in America.

According to Walden’s attorneys, despite the conservative nature of the community, since at least 2015, MPS has maintained a policy of helping students who want to “transition” their genders. Under this policy, MPS employees ask students whether they want their parents informed about the transition.

If students do not want their parents informed, MPS employees are required to keep this information hidden from parents. This policy of parental non-notification used to be explicit and in writing. After controversy arose in the local community about the non-notification policy, MPS revised its written documents to obfuscate the policy.

Walden’s attorneys say the new policy “pays lip service” to the legal requirement for parental notification, but it still allows school employees to talk to students about their sexual identity without parents’ knowledge. And it also coaches students how to make sure their parents never find out they’ve been talking to school employees about their sexual identity.

The policy also allows students to use the locker rooms and showers intended for members of the opposite sex. The latest version of the policy only requires parental notification after MPS has started helping a student to socially transition in school.

The attorneys question whether the parental notifications are really happening.

Walden’s team alleges that the policy directly violates multiple statutes, especially Arizona’s Parents’ Bill of Rights, which recognizes and protects the “fundamental right” “of parents to direct the upbringing, education, health care and mental health of their children.” The policy also violates many other statutes, such as the requirement that “parents will be notified in advance of … any instruction … or presentations regarding sexuality,” and the requirement that parents provide consent before any “mental health screening in a nonclinical setting or mental health treatment on a minor.”

MPS maintains this policy of parental non-notification and facilitation of sex transition even though the elected MPS governing board has never voted to adopt any such policy and even though state law only allows a school district governing board to adopt “policies and procedures to govern the schools.”

“Not only do parents have the fundamental right to direct the upbringing of their children, but the Constitution and Arizona law forbid the types of policies we are challenging here for our client,” stated Gene Hamilton, America First Legal Vice President and General Counsel. “School districts like MPS have an obligation to notify parents if their child attempts to identify as a different sex. The people of Mesa are rightly outraged by these radical policies and we will fight for the right of every parent to direct the upbringing of their children.”

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