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Leavitt Calls Out Manchester Schools, Pappas Over Parental Rights

Standing outside the Manchester School District office, GOP congressional candidate Karoline Leavitt called out the city’s schools and her Democratic opponent over the issue of parental rights.

“Far left Democrats, including my opponent (U.S. Rep.) Chris Pappas, do not believe that parents have a fundamental right to know when their child is expressing concerns over their gender status at school,” Leavitt said. She was surrounded by supporters waving “Moms for Karoline” signs.

Leavitt was responding to a recent ruling by Hillsborough Superior Court Judge Amy Messer rejecting a Manchester mother’s demand she be told about her child’s behavior at school regarding gender identity. District policy forbids teachers and employees from informing parents if children adopt a different gender or engage in related behavior while at school.

Messer ruled that parents ultimately do not have the right to direct how their children are educated in public schools.

Leavitt said if elected she would push for a federal parents’ bill of rights.

“Parents have an inalienable right to know what’s going on in their child’s classroom, and in Congress, I will proudly support legislation to enact a federal parental bill of rights,” Leavitt said. “I will always ensure that Granite State moms and dads feel heard at the highest level of our government. That is why I am here today, and I will always put parents over politicians.”

Manchester School District spokesman Andrew Toland declined to comment on Leavitt’s remarks, saying the lawsuit is still potentially pending. After Messer dismissed the lawsuit, the mother’s attorney Richard Lehmann told NHJournal he plans to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Leavitt said the district’s policy is based on the false assumption that parents will automatically harm their LGBTQ+ identifying children and will not seek to do what is in the true best interest of their child.

“I spoke directly and personally with the mother who filed this lawsuit,” Leavitt said. “You know what she told me? She told me, ‘I may have lost my daughter. My daughter may have taken her own life if I was not accidentally informed that she was expressing concerns over her gender at school.’ She said, ‘Who would’ve been responsible then if my sweet innocent child lost and took her own life? She was expressing concerns over her emotional and mental health crying out for help to these teachers,’” Leavitt said.

Activists with the liberal organization Granite State Progress told NH Journal Leavitt is wrong to champion parents’ rights over the school’s policy to keep gender identity secrets. Children who identify as transgender or some other variation of LGBTQ+ run the risk of parental violence when they come out, said Sarah Robinson with the organization.

“We believe that students deserve to go to school to learn in a place of belonging. And as a mom myself, I believe that my children deserve to be valued in whatever space they step into. And we know that coming out to parents is a big decision for students and teachers and educators and staff of schools. Interrupting the parent-child relationship is not the way this conversation needs to go,” Robinson said.

Asked what other information teachers should keep secret from parents about their children’s behavior, Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress, deflected the question. Instead, she claimed most parents in New Hampshire support Manchester’s policy of secrecy, based on the most recent school board election results.

“Here’s the deal: We had school board races up and down New Hampshire in the spring, and the candidates who came out on top were those who supported all kids in the classroom. And parents who are involved in their children’s lives and create supportive, loving environments at home. Their kids come to them and talk to them. And kids who do not have that at home need to be safe and supported and firmed in the other spaces they are in,” Rice Hawkins said.

Pappas declined to respond to requests for comment. However, just hours after Leavitt’s press conference he joined his fellow House Democrats in a vote to kill an amendment to protect parents’ right to know.

“Every House Democrat just voted against requiring parental notice and consent before a school provides services related to sexual orientation or gender identity,” tweeted House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) “Outrageous. Parents have a right to know what schools are doing with their kids.”

 

NH Judge: Parental Rights ‘Not Absolute’ in New Hampshire

A Hillsborough Superior Court judge has dismissed the lawsuit brought by a Manchester mother who says the school district’s transgender policy is interfering with her rights as a parent, with the judge ruling the mother’s rights as a parent are “not absolute.” 

Judge Amy Messer ruled the Manchester School District’s policy directing teachers and staff not to fully and accurately inform parents about their child’s expressed gender identity is fine. Messer ruled parents ultimately do not have the right to direct how their children are to be educated in public schools.

“(T)he right to make decisions about the care, custody, and control of one’s child is not absolute,” Messer wrote.

The mother, who filed the lawsuit under the pseudonym Jane Doe, stated in her original complaint that she found out in fall 2021 that her child was using a different pronoun and gender identity at school. The name of the school was withheld in court documents to protect the child’s identity.

The mother spoke with school staff, including the student’s guidance counselor. The mother made it clear she wanted her child to be called by the name and pronouns the child had at birth while in school, according to the lawsuit.

Even though the staff she spoke to initially agreed, the mother soon received an email from the school principal stating that, due to the district’s policy, the mother’s instructions were being overridden. The principal stated the district’s policy requires school staff to keep such matters secret from parents if the child so chooses, according to the lawsuit. Even if staffers agree to use the child’s true gender identity when speaking with the mother, they would be obligated to not tell the mother if the child wished to be identified as something else.

The policy states teachers and staff are not to tell anyone about a child’s gender identity without the express consent of the child. School employees are also directed to use the child’s biological pronouns and given name when talking about the child to people who do not know about the nonconforming gender identity.

Messer ruled the policy, which was originally produced by the National School Boards Association and adopted by the Manchester school district, does not interfere with parental rights because parents can still direct their child’s home life. Parents can still interact with their children, direct their medical care, and supervise their social lives outside of school.

“In short, the policy places no limit on the plaintiff’s ability to parent her child as she sees fit,” Messer wrote.

Messer’s ruling mirrored arguments laid out by school district attorneys, who essentially claimed Doe had no right to direct what happens to her child in the school building.

The district’s motion to dismiss claimed the policy did not interfere with the parent-child relationship, since the mother was free to have the child identify as their birth gender at home. However, according to the 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 exercise of those rights in this fashion,” the motion stated.

Manchester School District did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Doe’s attorney, Richard Lehmann, said he was not done with the case.

“We will appeal the ruling,” Lehmann said.

Issues like Manchester’s transgender policy were behind this year’s push in the State House for a parental bill of rights. The proposal died in the previous session after Gov. Chris Sununu signaled he would veto the bill over concerns about the privacy and safety of the students.

A new New York Times/Siena College poll finds widespread opposition to the approach to sex and gender policies in schools pushed by progressive districts like Manchester. More than two-thirds of registered voters oppose sexual orientation and gender identity being taught in elementary school, Among independent voters, 71 percent oppose it, 57 percent of them strongly.

Shannon McGinley, executive director with the conservative Cornerstone Action organization, declined to comment on the lawsuit’s dismissal. McGinley and Cornerstone vocally supported the parents’ bill of rights.

“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 of the bill.

 

Manchester Schools to Parents: We Have No Duty to Inform You of Students’ Trans Activity

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.”