Federal Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Florida’s Parental Rights Law

NTD Newsroom
By NTD Newsroom
October 23, 2022Politics
Federal Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Florida’s Parental Rights Law
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks in a neighborhood impacted by Hurricane Ian at Fisherman's Wharf in Fort Myers, Fla., on Oct. 5, 2022. (Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

PUNTA GORDA, Fla.—A Federal Judge has dismissed another lawsuit challenging Florida’s parental rights law.

The decision is the second time in about a month that a judge has declined to block the law, which protects the rights of parents to make decisions about the upbringing and control of their children, restricts school districts from withholding information about children from parents, and, among other provisions, prohibits teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity to children in kindergarten through grade three.

Attorneys for a group of parents, students, and a non-profit group filed a motion for preliminary injunction in July against the school boards of Orange, Indian River, Duval, and Palm Beach counties.  They argued the law discriminates against LGBT students and families.

The plaintiffs also argued that the law violated the rights to free speech, equal protection, and due process.

NTD Photo
Loudoun County mother Meggan Jenkins, a member of the parental rights group Moms for Liberty, at a rally outside the Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) administration building in Ashburn, Va., on Sept. 13, 2022. (Terri Wu/The Epoch Times)

U.S. District Judge Wendy Berger, an appointee of President Donald Trump, denied the request for a preliminary injunction and dismissed the lawsuit in an order issued on Oct. 20.

On Sept. 29, U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor dismissed a separate case, indicating that the plaintiffs could file a revised lawsuit version. Berger, like Winsor, said the plaintiffs could file a revised version.

Critics have labeled the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education bill as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill.”  In addition to preventing instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade, the law requires that such instruction be “age-appropriate … in accordance with state academic standards” in higher grades.

Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office and the school boards had previously said that Berger should reject the motion for a preliminary injunction, in part because the plaintiffs “did not have legal standing.”

Berger’s Oct. 20 decision denied the injunction on the basis of a lack of legal standing. The judge described the lawsuit as a “shotgun pleading” and said that the plaintiffs “failed to specify what policy or custom of each defendant supports liability” under the U.S. Constitution.

The plaintiffs include Orange County residents Jennifer and Matthew Cousins and their four children, including their seventh-grader whom they identify as “S.C.”  They cited that the law would prohibit speech at school and could result in increased bullying of their child. However, Berger found they had not shown standing.

“Plaintiffs have not pointed this court to any policy or procedure from Orange County that they allege has resulted in any increase in bullying that S.C. might experience at school,” Berger wrote.

“While the court is sympathetic to the Cousins’ fear that their child may be bullied, it is simply a fact of life that many middle school students will face the criticism and harsh judgment of their peers. S.C. is not alone in this regard. Indeed, middle school children bully and belittle their classmates for a whole host of reasons, all of which are unacceptable, and many of which have nothing to do with a classmate’s gender identity.”

Berger gave the plaintiffs until Nov. 3 to file a revision.

Simone Chriss, director of transgender rights initiative at Southern Legal Counsel, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said in a statement: “The court’s order disregards the experiences of our plaintiffs, and disrespects the experiences of all LGBTQ+ youth in Florida public schools.”

From The Epoch Times

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