Parents Defending Education Files Federal Lawsuit Challenging Olentangy Local School District’s “Anti-Harassment” Policies


Lewis Center, OH. — Parents Defending Education (PDE), a national nonprofit membership association that empowers concerned citizens to become more engaged in America’s education system, filed a lawsuit today against Olentangy Local School District (OLSD). Parents Defending Education v. Olentangy Local School District Board of Education, et al. was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, alleging that District policies violate students’ First Amendment rights by chilling students’ speech rights, compelling students to affirm beliefs about sex and gender that are contrary to their own deeply held beliefs, and violating parents’ Fourteenth Amendment rights through the district’s efforts to restrict speech off school grounds and in families’ homes.

OLSD’s policies and Student Code of Conduct include “transgender identity” as a protected group, requiring students to use other students’ “preferred” pronouns — which the District can enforce through wide-ranging forms of formal punishment (such as suspension and expulsion).

The District’s other actions send a clear message to students that only one view about gender identity is acceptable: it has pushed parents out of critical gender-identity decisions of their children through its use of “Gender Identity Support Plans” for students whose biological gender does not align with their gender identity, which the District uses without the consent of their parents. OLSD has also issued “Transgender Guidelines” that instruct teachers and other District officials to hide the student’s gender identity and “preferred pronouns” from the student’s parents, unless the minor student gives permission otherwise.

In addition, OLSD prioritizes discussions of “gender identity” over all other issues; encourages teachers to inquire about students’ gender identity in class; peppers K-12 classrooms and hallways with flags and posters relating to gender identity and sexual orientation; encourages students and teachers to celebrate unorthodox holidays such as “International Pronouns Day” and “International Transgender Day of Visibility,” and pays special tribute to events sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) affinity group.

“Olentangy’s ‘harassment’ policies show a deep contempt for the constitutional rights of its students and families,” said Parents Defending Education Vice President Caroline Moore. “Public schools cannot force students to speak in a way that supports a viewpoint contrary to their deeply held beliefs— nor may schools follow students home to police their speech at all hours of the day on their personal devices. But Olentangy has enacted a series of overbroad ‘Anti-Harassment’ policies under the guise of ‘inclusivity’ that flout basic constitutional rights both in and outside of the classroom.”

PDE has asked the courts to declare that Olentangy’s “harassment” provisions violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as to enjoin the District from enforcing the “harassment” provisions, from punishing speech about gender identity or compelling speech to affirm another person’s gender identity, and from punishing students for speech occurring off school grounds that is not for or during a school-sponsored activity.