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D.F. v. Harrisonburg City Public School Board

Description:  The Harrisonburg City Public School Board in Virginia is usurping parents’ right to direct the upbringing of their children and forcing school staff to violate their religious beliefs by affirming the board’s view on gender identity. Upon a child’s request, school district policy requires staff to immediately begin using opposite-sex pronouns and forbids staff from sharing information with parents about their child’s request, instead instructing staff to mislead and deceive parents.


Harrisonburg High School in Virginia
Harrisonburg High School
Saturday, Jun 4, 2022

Versión en español

HARRISONBURG, Va. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a group of parents and teachers are suing the Harrisonburg City Public School Board for usurping parents’ right to direct the upbringing of their children and forcing school staff to violate their religious beliefs by affirming the board’s view on gender identity. Upon a child’s request, school district policy requires staff to immediately begin using opposite-sex pronouns and forbids staff from sharing information with parents about their child’s request, instead instructing staff to mislead and deceive parents.

ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit, D.F. v. Harrisonburg City Public School Board, last week in the Rockingham County Circuit Court after sending a letter in January informing the board its policy of hiding information from parents when students express discomfort with their biological sex at school is unconstitutional. The policy resulted in the school district implementing “Gender Transition Action Plans,” which clarify that students’ families will only be involved where it is deemed “appropriate.”

“Parents—not public schools or government officials—have the fundamental right to direct the upbringing, care, and education of their children,” said ADF Senior Counsel Ryan Bangert. “Teachers and staff cannot willfully hide kids’ mental health information from their parents, especially as some of the decisions children are making at school have potentially life-altering ramifications. As the clients we represent believe, a teacher’s role is to support, not supplant, the role of the parent.”

ADF attorneys are representing parents and teachers in several other public school cases.

In Kansas, a middle school teacher is suing her school district for forcing her to use a student’s “preferred name” to address the student in class while using the student’s legal name when speaking to parents—an action that violates the teacher’s conscience.

And in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, assisted by ADF attorneys, represents two groups of parents: one group of parents is challenging a Madison Metropolitan School District policy that instructs district employees to exclude parents from children’s health decisions, and another group of parents is suing the Kettle Moraine School District over its policy that allows minor students to change their name and gender pronouns at school without parental consent.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

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ABOUT Ryan Bangert

Ryan Bangert serves as senior counsel and vice president for legal strategy at Alliance Defending Freedom. He oversees the Center for Academic Freedom, the Center for Conscience Initiatives, and the regulatory litigation team, and assists ADF leadership with strategic initiatives. Before joining ADF, Bangert served as Deputy for Legal Counsel and Deputy First Assistant Attorney General in the Office of the Texas Attorney General. In those roles, he oversaw the State’s Special Litigation Unit, which handled critical litigation against the federal government, and oversaw multiple divisions within the office, including the General Counsel Division and the Opinion Committee. Bangert also served as Deputy for Civil Litigation for Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, overseeing the state’s civil litigation portfolio and over 200 attorneys and staff. Prior to his government service, Bangert was a litigation partner at Baker Botts L.L.P., where he was a volunteer attorney for ADF and served as amicus counsel in numerous cases. Bangert earned his B.A. from Oral Roberts University, and his J.D. from Southern Methodist University, where he graduated first in his class. He participated in the Blackstone Legal Fellowship program in 2002. Following law school, he clerked for Judge Patrick Higginbotham on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. Bangert is an active member of the Texas Bar and is admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court and various federal trial courts and courts of appeal.