On February 27, 2023, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and the ACLU-NH filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the New Hampshire Supreme Court to uphold a Manchester School District policy providing support for transgender students. Joining GLAD and the ACLU-NH as amici on the brief are New Hampshire parent Heather Romeri and her son Nico, a New Hampshire high school student, Directors of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for New Hampshire public schools, as well as faith leaders, medical organizations, and LGBTQ advocacy organizations.
The brief highlights the vital educational interests served by the Manchester School District’s policy of supporting and affirming the gender identity of students at school. That policy includes referring to students by their requested names and pronouns and maintaining student privacy when appropriate. The amici argue that a bright-line ruling mandating that schools disclose such information to parents without regard to the student’s wishes and circumstances would inappropriately and sometimes harmfully insert schools into parent-child relationships, would deter students from seeking support and sharing information at school, and would negatively impact the learning environment of all students.
As the brief explains, New Hampshire’s public schools have a long history of working in partnership with parents and students to foster a learning environment where all students are safe, respected, and thriving. For transgender students, that must include trust to express themselves at school and to be respected for who they are, even as they are preparing to do so at home. Forcing schools to disclose such information against a student’s wishes not only takes away a trusted source of support from the student, it inserts the school into family life in a manner that forecloses the opportunity for an important conversation between child and parent.
Doe v. Manchester School District is before the state’s highest court on appeal from a lower court ruling which upheld the school district’s policy. GLAD and ACLU-NH’s brief urges the high court to affirm that ruling which found the policy to be in line with state and federal constitutional requirements and state and federal law. The brief also cites substantial research showing that a positive school climate that fosters a sense of safety, belonging, and respect is optimal for learning and has deep and long-lasting effects for every child who experiences it. By maintaining a policy of affirming and supporting transgender students, the Manchester district is meeting its obligation to provide a safe and equal educational environment for all students.