Are Transgender ‘Outing’ Policies Legal? Here’s What Some Experts Say.

Last week, California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta filed a lawsuit against the Chino Valley Unified School District over its so-called transgender “outing” policy. The policy requires school staff to notify parents if their child identifies as transgender or gender-nonconforming.

The implications of the lawsuit are huge, and not limited to CVUSD. Murrieta Valley Unified and Temecula Valley Unified have adopted identical policies. Conservatives are pushing for more districts, including Orange Unified, to follow.

So how likely is the state to prevail in its lawsuit?

Experts who spoke to the Los Angeles Times agree the issue is complicated. Student privacy rights are cut-and-dry when it comes to third parties. They’re less clear when parents are involved.

In July, a federal court held that the Chico Unified School District did not violate a mother’s constitutional rights when it failed to inform her that her child was using pronouns of a different gender. U.S. District Court Judge John Mendez said the district had no obligation to inform the parent. But the case did not deal with whether a district can inform a parent of a student’s gender status.

Bonta will largely rely on precedent from the C.N. vs. Wolf case, which was decided 17 years ago after a school informed a parent that their daughter had been caught kissing another girl. The court held that students have a right to privacy under California law in matters of sexual orientation.

But the Heritage Foundation’s Sarah Perry believes the case against CVUSD “is very likely to maneuver its way up to the Supreme Court” where conservatives hold a 6 to 3 majority. At that point, all bets are off.

In the past five years, the U.S. Supreme Court has shown an unusual willingness to overturn case law. It has bucked longstanding legal precedent, most notably in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which held that the Constitution does not confer a woman’s right to abortion.