Appeals Court Strikes Down Forced 'Respect' of Gender Pronouns in Schools: 1A Not Undone By 'Defining Speech as Bullying'


A federal appeals court has blocked an Iowa school district from enforcing a policy that threatens to punish students with expulsion if they failed to “respect” the gender pronouns of their classmates.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the policy was at odds with the First Amendment and issued an injunction in favor of a group that sued to protect students from indoctrination, Just the News reported.

The nonprofit group Parents Defending Education challenged a policy enacted by the Linn-Mar Community School District in Linn County, Iowa, last year.

Parents Defending Education describes itself as a nationwide “grassroots organization working to reclaim our schools from activists imposing harmful agendas.”

The policy vowed to create a so-called “Gender Support Plan” for students in the district who identify as “transgender,” as well as “gender-expansive,” “nonbinary” and all students who are “questioning their gender.”

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The district also promised to cater to these students through special treatment.

“Every student has the right to be addressed by a name and pronoun that corresponds to their gender identity,” the policy said. “A court-ordered name or gender change is not required, and the student need not change official school records.”

Students and teachers who did not show “respect” for the stated gender identity of a student faced severe consequences, the Linn-Mar Community School District vowed.

The policy stated: “An intentional and/or persistent refusal by staff or students to respect a student’s gender identity is a violation of school board policies [on Bullying and Anti-Harassment].”

Do you agree with the court’s ruling?

Punishments for misgendering a student included both suspension and expulsion.

The policy was struck down Friday by the St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In its ruling in favor of Parents Defending Education, the court ruled, “A school district cannot avoid the strictures of the First Amendment simply by defining certain speech as ‘bullying’ or ‘harassment.’”

The court also stated that the policy was “vague” and that a school’s disciplinary rules “need not be as detailed as a criminal code that imposes criminal sanctions.”

Judges also ruled that the policy was written with a “lack of clarity” that made those who violated it “susceptible to arbitrary enforcement.”

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“The undefined term ‘respect’ leaves the policy open to unpredictable interpretations, and creates a substantial risk that school administrators may arbitrarily enforce the policy,” the court ruled. “Without meaningful guidance, District officials are left to determine on an ‘ad hoc and subjective basis’ what speech is ‘disrespectful.’”

Parents Defending Education celebrated the ruling in a statement obtained by to KCRG-TV.

“We are gratified that the 8th Circuit upheld the rights of families and students in Linn-Mar. It is never acceptable to prohibit speech with vague terms that allow arbitrary enforcement, especially when compelled student speech is at stake, and this sends a clear message to other districts across the country with similar bullying and harassment policies on the books,” Parents Defending Education President Nicole Neily said.

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Johnathan Jones has worked as a reporter, an editor, and producer in radio, television and digital media.
Johnathan "Kipp" Jones has worked as an editor and producer in radio and television. He is a proud husband and father.