Matthew J. Platkin, the attorney general for New Jersey, announced in a May 17 news release that his office has filed a Division on Civil Rights complaint challenging a policy enacted by the Hanover Township Board of Education in Morris County.
The policy in question requires school staff to notify parents of the gender identity and sexual orientation of LGBTQ+ students, the news release states. Platkin and the Division of Civil Rights also announced that they filed an emergency motion in Superior Court, requesting a preliminary injunction and temporary restraints to prevent the policy from going into effect while its challenge to the policy remains pending.
The administrative complaint and the motion for a preliminary injunction allege that the policy violates the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination’s prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
The motion for a preliminary junction was granted, leading the attorney general’s office to release a statement that said, “We are gratified that the Superior Court has temporarily prohibited the Hanover Township Board of Education from implementing its policy requiring school staff to out LGBTQ+ youth to their parents. That prohibition will remain in effect until the court has an opportunity to hear argument from the parties on May 30. We look forward to presenting our argument to the Court then.”
Board Defends its Policy
The Hanover Township Board of Education, however, defended its decision to adopt the policy in question, stating in a May 17 news release. “On May 16, 2023, the Hanover Township Board of Education passed Board Policy 8463 known as Parental Notice of Material Circumstances. Today, the Attorney General’s Office commenced a lawsuit seeking to enjoin Board Policy 8463 asserting – albeit incorrectly – that this policy ‘targets students on the basis of gender identity, gender expression and affectional or sexual orientation in clear violation of New Jersey law and policy.'”
The release goes on to state that contrary to the Attorney General’s Office “erroneous assertions,” the policy does not unlawfully discriminate against any student on the basis of any protected status. According to the Hanover Township Board of Education, “Rather, a simple reading of Policy 8463 reveals that it requires school staff members to notify appropriate school administrators and a student’s parents whenever the staff member is made aware of any facts or circumstances that may have a material impact on a student’s physical and/or mental health and/or social/emotional well-being, including but not limited to the following issues: substance use, tobacco/ vaping use; alcohol use; firearms; peer/academic/athletic pressures; school performance; eating disorders; suicide; self-harm; anxiety; depression; fatigue; isolationism/anti-social behaviors/social withdraw; truancy; theft; vandalism; unlawful activity; violent or aggressive behavior; preoccupation with anti-social music; pornography; sexual activity; sexuality; sexual orientation; transitioning; gender identity or expression; gang affiliation; obsessive compulsive behaviors; familial/cultural challenges; harassment; intimidation; or bullying.”
The Hanover Board of Education goes on to state, “Simply put, Board Policy 8463 merely requires that staff members ‘say something to the parents and appropriate school administrators’ if they ‘see something that could adversely affect the social/emotional well-being of a child.’ The Hanover Township Board of Education believes that parents need to be fully informed of all material issues that could impact their children so that they – as parents – can provide the proper care and support for their children. The Board will vigorously defend common-sense policy that protects parental rights and ensures the safety of all school children.”
More Details about the State’s Complaint
Because the policy requires school staff to “out” LGBTQ+ youth to their parents, it exposes them to severe harms to their safety and mental health, the complaint alleges. The policy also runs counter to guidance from the New Jersey Department of Education concerning the confidentiality and privacy of such information.
“We will always stand up for the LGBTQ+ community here in New Jersey and look forward to presenting our arguments in court in this matter,” Platkin said. “We are extremely proud of the contributions LGBTQ+ students make to our classrooms and our communities, and we remain committed to protecting them from discrimination in our schools.”
The complaint does not challenge other aspects of the policy passed by the board, which on their face do not violate the Law Against Discrimination, such as the requirements for parental notification related to “substance use,” “alcohol use,” “firearms,” or “unlawful activity,” according to the attorney general’s news release.
Read the attorney general’s full news release for more details.