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California sues Rocklin Unified School District over "discriminatory" gender notification policy

Rocklin Unified sued by state over controversial gender notification policy
Rocklin Unified sued by state over controversial gender notification policy 02:35

ROCKLIN — A Northern California school district is being sued by the state over allegations the district failed to carry out corrective actions in a controversial gender notification policy adopted last summer.

The California Department of Education (CDE) received a complaint on September 7, 2023, from a Placer County educator who accused the Rocklin Unified School District of adopting a policy the day prior that was discriminatory to marginalized students, according to court documents obtained by CBS Sacramento.

The policy, which was approved by the district that September, required schools to notify parents if their children requested to be identified as anything other than their biological sex, use a different name or pronouns that do not align with their biological gender, or request to use bathrooms that don't align with their gender.

Now, the lawsuit claims the CDE is seeking a court order against the district after it has "unlawfully refused and failed" to take corrective measures outlined in a CDE investigative report released on February 1, 2024. The CDE began its investigation on September 22, 2023.

In its report, the CDE found that the district's policy was discriminatory and singled out only a specific group of students and "circumvents a student's constitutional right of privacy and determination of when and where to share private personal information regarding their gender identification and expression," the lawsuit says.

Furthermore, the state says the policy doesn't further any educational purpose and intervenes in student-parent relationships for purposes not related to educational needs.

Rocklin Unified was required, within five days of receiving the CDE's report, to inform all school personnel and students in writing that the CDE deemed the policy inconsistent with the state education code and should not be implemented. The district was also required to provide the CDE with evidence of compliance within 10 days.

The state battle against Rocklin Unified provoked strong language from California Assemblymember Bill Essayli, who wrote legislation on the parent notification policy that did not pass into law.

"It's a big deal. We're talking about fundamental rights here," Essayli said. "We're talking about the right of parents to raise their kids. This is a big issue."

Price Johnson has two children in the Rocklin Unified School District. He's been opposed to the notification policy since it was first proposed.

"This should be education-focused," Johnson said. "We shouldn't be bringing political or ideological culture war issues to the schools."

The lawsuit is asking a judge for the policy to be revoked immediately and for the school district to pay the state legal fees.

"You know, I'm frustrated. I'm hurt. I'm confused because this seems like such a distraction," Johnson said.

Rocklin and several other school boards across California have now adopted the notification policy on their own.

The lawsuit was filed on April 10 and was served on April 23. Parents recently became aware of the lawsuit and are expected to show up at Wednesday night's district board meeting to continue to raise their concerns.

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