Judge throws out attempt to repeal trans anti-bullying policy in Ohio

A person holds up two trans flags and a sign reading "You are loved."

A US federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit attempting to repeal Ohio anti-bullying policies that protect transgender students, in a much-needed win for LGBTQ+ rights.

US district chief judge Algenon Marbley slapped down a legal complaint from the right-wing advocacy group Parents Defending Education (PDE) that was attempting to rescind anti-bullying policies in the Olentangy Local School District.

The policy as it stands protects transgender students and others from targeted harassment based on their identity, which would include deliberate misgendering in the case of trans people.

The PDE argued in the lawsuit that the policies protecting students from abuse based on their identity were overly broad and violated a student’s First Amendment right to free speech, accusing the district of “compelling speech one way or another.”

In his ruling, Marbley wrote he believed that trans youth were “far too often” subjected to harassment and bullying in public schools and so found the policy to be necessary.

“They are threatened or physically injured in schools at a rate four times higher than other students,” he said. “They are harassed verbally at extraordinarily higher rates. More than one in five attempt suicide.”

You may like to watch

The school district’s policy primarily prevents identity-based harassment, which it defines as identities based on “race, colour, national origin, sex – including sexual orientation and gender identity – disability, age, religion, ancestry, or genetic information.”

This includes verbal or written derogatory language, which the policy describes as “jokes and slurs that are derogatory towards an individual or group” that falls under the previously mentioned protected identities.

In a statement, the Olentangy District said the decision “affirms our commitment to maintaining a safe learning environment where all feel welcome and supported.”

“We will continue to do so and are looking forward to another great school year.”

PDE argued in its initial lawsuit that it was not attempting to impose a speech policy “requiring students to use only pronouns correlative with biological sex” but believed it was protecting free speech.

Judge Marbley ultimately disagreed, concluding that the US Constitution does not contain a right to misgender and bully a trans student.

“Using pronouns contrary to an individual’s preferences intentionally poses a different issue. It evinces disrespect for the individual,” Marbley continued. “Intentional misgendering has the effect of creating a hostile environment for transgender students on account of their gender identity and thereby causes a substantial disruption.”

The wave of transphobia sweeping across the US has made school districts a centre-point for so-called ‘anti-woke’ pundits to express their transphobic beliefs.

In June, things became so heated during a school board Pride meeting that an anti-LGBTQ+ protestor attacked an LGBTQ+ activist, repeatedly punching them in the head.

Protestors clashed outside of the Glendale Unified School District in California on 6 June as the board discussed recognising June as Pride Month.

As the notion was unanimously passed, anti-LGBTQ+ protestors, many of whom are believed to be members of the right-wing extremist group Proud Boys, stood outside holding American flags and wielding signs reading “leave our kids alone.”

Glendale Police Department wrote in a statement following the incident that a “small number” of people sought to cause trouble.

Three people were arrested on various charges, while a dispersal order was enforced in the waning hours of the committee meeting.