California Attorney General files complaint for injunctive and declaratory relief against Chino Valley USD

On Aug. 28, 2023, California Attorney General Rob Bonta filed a complaint in California Superior Court, San Bernardino County, requesting a declaration that Chino Valley Unified School District’s new policy, Policy 5020.1, is unconstitutional under the California Constitution and/or state law. The complaint also asks the court to issue a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction prohibiting the district from enforcing the new policy until this case is decided and to ultimately issue an order permanently enjoining the district from enforcing the policy.

Chino Valley USD’s school board adopted Policy 5020.1 on July 20, 2023. The policy requires school personnel to notify parents within three days when they learn that a student is “requesting to be identified or treated, as a gender […] other than the student’s biological sex or gender listed on the student’s birth certificate or any other official records.” Based on the policy, notification is also required when a student requests access to a bathroom, sports team or activity that do not align with the student’s biological sex or gender listed on their official records and when a student requests to change information contained in their official or unofficial records.

The AG’s complaint alleges that Policy 5020.1 demonstrates the animus of the school board towards students in the LGBTQ community. To support this allegation, the complaint cites numerous community members who spoke at the school board meeting and expressed their concern with the policy, as well as board members who, as the complaint states, “claimed that transgender identity is a ‘mental illness’ a ‘delusion’ and a ‘damaging ideology’.”

The complaint also details several research studies that conclude that “transgender and gender nonconforming students in unsupportive environments experience high degrees of discrimination and harassment.” The complaint further alleges that transgender and gender nonconforming students are singled out for discriminatory treatment by the policy because there are no limits on the forced disclosure of a student’s gender identity. More specifically, the complaint states that, while it seems that the policy contains carve-outs to protect information disclosed by a student to a counselor, that “characterization [is not] correct [because the cited] statutory provisions do not limit forced disclosure of a student’s identity at all.” Instead, the statutory provisions cited in the policy only permit non-disclosure when a counselor concludes disclosure would be inappropriate.

Finally, the complaint includes details of an investigation conducted by the AG prior to filing the complaint, to determine the legality and effect of the policy. Based on the information gathered during the investigation, the AG’s complaint alleges that the policy subjects transgender and gender nonconforming students to discrimination because of their gender identity, and by doing so, violates the students’ right to equal protection of the law based on California Constitution (Article I, Section 7), Education Code (sections 200 et. seq.) and Government Code (section 11135) and infringes on the students’ right to privacy enshrined in the California Constitution (Article I, Section 1).