In legal filings made Wednesday, the Manchester School District (MSD) declared it has no “duty” to inform parents when their children are engaged in transgender behavior or experiencing transgender ideation or dysmorphia. 

The school district made this claim in a court filing responding to a lawsuit brought by a student’s mother over the school system’s transgender policy. MSD insists the mother has no right to know if her child is living a trans identity at school, and it wants her lawsuit dismissed.

“(T)his motion can be easily resolved by answering one discrete question: Do school districts have a legally enforceable duty to inform parents when a student uses a name or gender pronoun different than that assigned at birth? Because the answer to this question is no, the Complaint should be dismissed,” Manchester’s motion states.

The mother, who is going by Jane Doe in the lawsuit, claims her child started expressing a different gender identity at school from the child’s identity at birth, and that fact was kept secret from the child’s family.

According to Jane Doe’s lawsuit, she found out last fall that her child was using a different pronoun and gender identity at school. The mother spoke with school staff, including the guidance counselor. The mother made it clear she wanted her child to be called by the name and pronouns her child was born with while in school, according to the lawsuit.

Even though the staff she spoke to initially agreed, the mother soon got an email from the school principal stating that due to the district’s policy, it would not be possible. The principal stated the district’s policy requires school staff to keep such matters secret from parents if the child wants them kept secret, according to the lawsuit. Even if the staffers agree to use the child’s biological gender identity when speaking with the mother, they would be obligated to lie and not tell the mother if the child wished to be identified as something else, according to the lawsuit.

According to the district’s motion, the mother has no rights when it comes to the child’s identity at school.

“Whatever the scope of a parent’s rights vis-a-vis their transgender or gender-nonconforming children, they do not include the right to force a school district to act as a conduit for the parent’s exercise of those rights in this fashion,” the motion states.

The district’s motion to dismiss claims that this policy does not interfere with the parent-child relationship, since the mother is still free to have the child identify as their birth gender at home.

Shannon McGinley, executive director at the conservative organization Cornerstone, said school districts should not have the power to override parents and their values when it comes to raising their children.

“Schools are not courts of law and should not have the authority to unilaterally deprive people of recognized legal rights. This is a government entity that is increasingly being given vast and unquestioned power over our lives and the lives of our children,” McGinley said.

Two weeks after Jane Doe’s lawsuit was filed, the Manchester Board of Education tweaked the transgender policy — though not by much. The original policy read: “School personnel should not disclose information that may reveal a student’s transgender status or gender-nonconforming presentation to others, including parents and other school personnel, unless legally required to do so or unless the student has authorized such disclosure.”

The board took out the phrase “including parents and other school personnel,” and added a line stating, “Nothing herein shall be construed to change the obligation of the school to take action when student safety is concerned.”

The changes did not assure Jane Doe that her rights as a parent would be recognized, and the lawsuit continues in the Hillsborough Superior Court – North in Manchester. McGinley said it was one of the reasons Cornerstone backed the failed Parents’ Bill of Rights in the legislature.

“The strong opposition faced by the Parents’ Bill of Rights this session proved that public schools in New Hampshire have an established practice of withholding information from parents about their minor children’s gender and sexuality,” McGinley said. “The justification for this is that, since some parents are abusive, all parents must be presumed guilty. But that’s not how we operate in any other area of parents’ rights.”

The bill was defeated after Gov. Chris Sununu, Attorney General John Formella, and others expressed concerns about the legality of the proposal.

MSD’s actions put it at the center of the national debate over parental rights. Progressive activists reject the widely-accepted view, going back to British common law, that parents should have the final say in decisions over their children.

“Schools have a long-standing tradition and legal obligation to inform parents of their children’s medical and behavioral issues and to honor their decisions about what’s best for their kids,” wrote Luke Berg for the American Enterprise Institute. “Yet, prompted by a well-organized lobby, many school districts have decided that minor students can change gender identity at school without any parental involvement.”

Berg, a former assistant attorney general at the Wisconsin Department of Justice, says this gets the legal standards all wrong.

As any parent of school-age kids can attest, schools require parental consent for just about everything, even seemingly insignificant matters: sports, field trips, extracurricular activities, alternate education programs, and taking any kind of medication at school,” Luke wrote. “Yet in the past few years, schools nationwide have carved out an exception to this expectation for one major and controversial issue: social gender identity transitions. Unbeknownst to many parents, schools are adopting policies that allow students to change gender identity at school, adopt a new name and pronouns, and even begin using opposite-sex facilities, without parental notice or consent and sometimes in secret from parents.

“This shift is happening under most parents’ radar— until it affects their children, when it’s often too late to fight.”