The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals delivered a ruling on Friday asserting that a school district in Iowa overstepped constitutional bounds with its policy mandating students to “respect” their peers’ self-proclaimed “gender identity” or face disciplinary actions. The court contended that such regulations amounted to a violation of the First Amendment.
The case, initiated in 2022 by Parents Defend Education (PDE) against the Linn-Mar School District, represented a group of anonymous parents who challenged the district’s policies as both unclear and coercive speech. The appellate court sided with PDE, directing the case back to the lower court with a directive to halt the enforcement of the school district’s handbook clauses concerning gender identity.
PDE expressed satisfaction with the verdict, emphasizing the importance of safeguarding the rights of families and students. The organization argued against the acceptance of ambiguous terms enabling arbitrary enforcement, particularly in cases involving compelled student speech. The court’s decision was seen as a warning to other school districts nationwide with comparable policies addressing bullying and harassment.
Parents involved in the lawsuit contended that Linn-Mar’s regulations posed a threat to the “open exchange of ideas” by suppressing speech contrary to what they deemed as radical gender ideology. The court agreed with these concerns, stating, “The policy broadly prohibits a refusal to ‘respect a student’s gender identity.’ The policy does not define ‘respect,’ and the expression of opinions like those held by parent G’s child arguably would violate the policy.”
🚨BREAKING: The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals just ruled in favor of @DefendingEd’s lawsuit against the Linn-Mar Community School District in Iowa.
This is a huge victory for students’ free speech!
— Nicki Neily (@nickineily) September 29, 2023
Notably, when PDE initially filed the lawsuit, Iowa had yet to enact a law preventing school districts from disregarding or excluding parental input on their children’s preferred pronouns and gender identity. Linn-Mar had previously implemented a policy prioritizing students’ desires over parental wishes, a practice now illegal in Iowa due to subsequent legislation.
PDE underscored the broader implications of the court’s decision, asserting that parental exclusion policies, akin to those contested in Linn-Mar, are now deemed unlawful across the state. The organization expressed optimism that such policies, prevalent in several districts nationally, would eventually be overturned in both the court of public opinion and the legal system.