A new policy in three Monmouth County school districts governing transgender students remains on hold after a judge’s ruling late Friday.
The decision by state Superior Court Judge David Bauman means the policy will not be enforced when school resumes in a few weeks.
The court hearing on Tuesday was, in fact, quite procedural, but the nationwide debate over public education prompted a spirited sidewalk discussion outside the courthouse by supporters of both sides.
At issue were similar policies recently adopted by the school districts of Middletown, Marlboro and Manalapan-Englishtown.
Broadly speaking, the policies call for school officials to notify parents if students request a change in gender identification regarding such things as name, pronoun and bathroom accommodation.
The state Attorney General’s Office sued all three districts, saying the policy would be discriminatory.
In today’s political climate, this case has generated much interest, especially in conservative circles with supporters of the new policies appearing on Fox News.
Bauman’s ruling referenced the school districts’ argument that the rights of parents “somehow unsettle or trump the right of the Attorney General to enforce laws against discrimination.”
He said, “they do not.”
The state has argued in this case – and in a similar one involving the Hanover Board of Education in Morris County – that the new policies are discriminatory because they would treat transgender students differently than others.
In one part of the ruling, the judge says that parental rights are “not immutable” and must yield to a “compelling governmental interest.”
Moreover, the ruling seemingly took pains to document the pain some transgender youth feel.
The judge wrote:
” … There is no protected group more vulnerable, or more susceptible, to physical or psychological harm than transgender, gender non-conforming and non-binary youth.”
Matt Platkin, the state AG, quickly fired off a statement Friday night, that, among other things, said the “court’s decision today is a major victory for civil rights.”
In truth, this case is far from over. The judge did not rule on the merits of the case, only to keep the new policy on hold pending further hearings by an administrative law judge.
But when it comes to the so-called culture wars, even a small win, apparently, is worth celebrating.