California Gov. Gavin Newsom has been quite vocal about his plans to punish school boards that implement policies to preserve parental rights and reject his extremist agenda and, as we’ve covered, the state’s Attorney General and Superintendent of Public Instruction have gotten in on the action, too. When Chino Valley Unified School District proposed a new policy requiring that parents be informed within 72 hours if their child requested to play a gender-based sport or use a restroom that didn’t match their biological gender, Attorney General Rob Bonta first told them they’d better not, then after it passed he initiated a civil rights investigation into the district.
Bonta’s investigation is, in reality, using his office and status as the state’s top law enforcement officer to engage in blatant retaliation and intimidation, and now the California State Bar is reviewing a complaint filed by the California Policy Center (CPC) alleging that the AG violated “California Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4 (c) and California Business and Professions Code section 6106” and that “his statements constitute acts of moral turpitude, dishonesty, and corruption and were intentional, reckless or grossly negligent acts of deceit.”
In Bonta’s July 20, 2023 letter to CVUSD’s superintendent (which is apparently the framework for his civil rights investigation, since the only thing he’s released since then is the press release about the investigation), Bonta claims that the sharing of information about a student’s gender identity with their parents violates the student’s privacy rights and that “students do not waive their reasonable expectation of privacy simply by expressing their gender identity in school.”
He also cited a California Department of Education FAQ page which includes guidance for school boards on how to apply a state antidiscrimination law – but he doesn’t note that what he’s citing is simply guidance, not law. He characterizes it as “instruction,” which is a bit more serious than guidance, and seems intentionally designed to lead the school board to believe that it’s a directive, not a suggestion.
Disclosing that a student is transgender without the student’s permission may violate California’s antidiscrimination law by increasing the student’s vulnerability to harassment and may violate the student’s right to privacy.
While the portion Bonta cited doesn’t explicitly say that a student’s parents are included in the group of people to whom disclosure should not be made, the rest of the FAQ page makes clear that they are – and that they are actually the primary people the California Department of Education wants to keep in the dark.
Bonta goes on to essentially say that parents are dangerous and not to be trusted and that they have no right to know that their child is transgender. He says that transgender students are at a much greater risk of attempting suicide and engaging in self-harm, yet still asserts that parents have no right to know that their child is in that high-risk group. So who’s putting the student at risk for violence, Mr. Bonta?
Though Bonta seems to be a true believer in the transgender narrative, his real purpose in sending the letter and then initiating the civil rights investigation is to harass and intimidate the Chino Valley USD school board, and to let his actions here serve as a warning to other school districts (nearby Murietta has adopted a similar policy) whose board members might be thinking of enacting policies that don’t comport with what he and Gavin Newsom want, even though the boards are legally entitled to enact such policies.
Secondarily, by sending a letter falsely claiming what federal law says about parental rights Bonta has given teachers’ unions an out. CVUSD teachers union leaders have advised their members to not comply with the new policy and filed an employment complaint against the district a week after Bonta announced his civil rights investigation. In addition, the Orange Unified Education Association, the union representing teachers in the City of Orange, issued a memo to school board members there warning that implementing a similar policy could be illegal, citing Bonta’s letter as the basis.
Seeing this naked attempt to intimidate and use his power and office to mislead school boards about the law and coerce them to follow the Newsom administration policy line, CPC filed a complaint on August 14, and they’ve been advised by the California State Bar that the complaint is undergoing an initial review.
Bonta’s false and misleading statements were part of a political intimidation campaign, the group claims. CPC President Will Swaim, who filed the complaint, said:
In both his letter and his announced investigation, Attorney General Bonta made false and misleading statements, especially his claim that a minor-child’s right to privacy supersedes the well-established rights and responsibilities of that child’s parents. Attorney General Bonta knows, or should know, that the factual premise for his claims is false.
To that point, CPC’s complaint cites Parham v. J.R., a 1979 Supreme Court case:
The law’s concept of the family rests on a presumption that parents possess what a child lacks in maturity, experience, and capacity for judgment required for making life’s difficult decisions. More important, historically it has been recognized that natural bonds of affection lead parents to act in the best interests of their children.
Parham also addresses a contention repeatedly made by Bonta and State Superintendent of Instruction Tony Thurmond, that because some parents might not deal well with the news that their child has declared themselves to be transgender, all parents must be shut out of the education process. Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote:
As with so many other legal presumptions, experience and reality may rebut what the law accepts as a starting point; the incidence of child neglect and abuse cases attests to this. That some parents “may at times be acting against the interests of their children” as was stated in Bartley v. Kremens creates a basis for caution, but is hardly a reason to discard wholesale those pages of human experience that teach that parents generally do act in the child’s best interests. The statist notion that governmental power should supersede parental authority in all cases because some parents abuse and neglect children is repugnant to American tradition.
Bonta and Newsom know that the default view in this country is that, generally, parents are best equipped to make decisions related to their childrens’ upbringing and have that right. So they are misstating the law and using positions of power to harass and intimidate parents and school boards into submission and to retaliate against those who won’t voluntarily submit. As Lance Christensen, CPC’s Vice President of Education Policy and Government Affairs, said:
Rob Bonta is part of a cabal of state and local officials and leaders of teachers’ unions bullying duly elected boards into abandoning deeply held principles regarding parental authority over children. Despite assertions by California’s top elected officials, parents are under assault under unconstitutional proposals in the final weeks of the legislative session. We need the government to do its few and enumerated responsibilities which do not include parenting.
There’s precedent for this type of investigation, Swaim says, in which an attorney allegedly “engage[s] in a course of conduct to plan, promote, and assist [a government executive officer] in executing a strategy, unsupported by facts or law, to overturn the legitimate results” of an election, in this case, the election of these school board members who then enacted a policy in the manner provided by the Education Code.”
Given the difference in John Eastman and Rob Bonta’s political persuasions, it’s unlikely that the California State Bar will take meaningful action against Bonta or even move into a full-blown investigation. But, it’s still a good thing that this complaint was filed and the hypocrisy pointed out.