LEWIS CENTER, Ohio (WCMH) — A federal judge has rejected a national conservative organization’s effort to overturn Olentangy Local School District’s anti-harassment policies protecting LGBTQ+ students.
A preliminary injunction filed by “Parents Defending Education” that aimed to prohibit Olentangy schools from enforcing anti-harassment policies for transgender students was denied on Friday, court documents show. The conservative Virginia-based nonprofit argued in a May complaint the district violated First Amendment rights by barring students from misgendering, the act of referring to another person by using pronouns that do not align with their gender identity.
“Transgender youth are far too often subject to harassment and bullying in public schools,” wrote U.S. District Chief Judge Algenon L. Marbley in the ruling. “They are threatened or physically injured in schools at a rate four times higher than other students. They are harassed verbally at extraordinarily higher rates. More than one in five attempt suicide.”
Marbley said the organization “failed to establish a substantial likelihood of success on its First Amendment claim.” The ruling also states “public schools are permitted to proscribe student speech that materially disrupts classwork or involves substantial disorder or invasion of the rights of others.”
A spokesperson for Olentangy schools told NBC4 the district values every member of the community and seeks to facilitate maximum learning for every student.
“Today’s decision affirms our commitment to maintaining a safe learning environment where all feel welcome and supported,” the district said. “We will continue to do so and are looking forward to another great school year.”
Still, Parents Defending Education is appealing the decision, claiming Olentangy’s student code of conduct that includes “transgender identity” as a protected group is unconstitutional. Further, the organization is against district policies that allegedly prohibit students from harassing or humiliating LGBTQ+ students on and off campus, and through their cell phones.
“The district’s policies require the students to conform their speech to the district’s views on gender identity,” the organization argues in its original complaint. “If students voice their closely held views that sex is immutable or refer to peers with their ‘unpreferred pronouns,’ they would violate the district’s broadly written policies.”
PDE’s complaint comes as The Trevor Project, the world’s leading suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ+ youth, found 41% of LGBTQ+ young people seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. A majority reported being verbally harassed at school because other students assumed they were part of the LGBTQ+ community.
Read Marbley’s full ruling below.