Transgender discussion in closed school board meeting results in Missouri lawsuit

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(The Center Square) – Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey is suing the Wentzville School District for violating the state’s open meetings law when a policy on transgender bathrooms was discussed in a closed session.

Board members Jennifer Olson and Renee Henke, elected in April, signed affidavits stating Superintendent Danielle Tormala told the board in a closed session in July the policy would be a “lightning rod” for litigation if reviewed in public session. Discussions also took place during a closed session in June, according to the affidavits.

In August, the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri filed a lawsuit against the Platte County School District concerning a policy they allege is discriminatory toward transgender students. The lawsuit argues Platte County Schools violated the Missouri Human Rights Act when a 16-year-old former student, a transgender girl, was punished by the school with detention and out-of-school suspension for using the girls restroom. The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

“The Board convened closed-session meetings to discuss school policy concerning bathroom usage for students and did so under the guise of legal actions or attorney-client communication,” Bailey alleges in a 20-page petition filed in St. Charles County Circuit Court.

The first sentence of Bailey’s petition states, “Missourians do not co-parent with the government.”

The Center Square’s email inquiry to Patrick Brazill, chief general counsel for the district, wasn’t immediately returned.

“The Wentzville R-IV School District Board of Education has not been served a copy of the lawsuit,” Kathy DeLaquil, community relations coordinator with the district, wrote in an email to The Center Square. “Generally, the district and the board do not comment on active litigation but always take matters of this kind very seriously. The Board of Education has adopted policies that demonstrate its commitment to Missouri Sunshine Law compliance and strives to faithfully adhere to those policies and the law.”

Last week, Bailey filed a lawsuit against Southampton Community Healthcare in St. Louis for providing puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones to minors without a comprehensive mental health assessment, required by a state law on transgender care that took effect last month.

“Parents have the right to know who is in the bathroom with their children,” Bailey said in a statement announcing the suit against Wentzville. “Members of the Wentzville School Board knowingly and purposefully denied parents that right when they shrouded the transgender student bathroom usage policy in secrecy, directly violating the Open Meetings Law. My office is sending the message that Missourians do not co-parent with the government. We will enforce Missouri’s open meetings statute to protect parental rights.”

The lawsuit seeks $1,000 for each violation of the open meetings law and $5,000 for violations during closed sessions.

The Wentzville School District has 17,600 students attending classes on 22 campuses and served by 2,700 employees.

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