Possible Legal Action Against School District


Photo from NorthJersey.com

Hanna Kimball, Managing Editor

UPDATE: Adams has provided a statement regarding the possible legal actions against the district. Updates are below in bold.


After the information session held in Pascack Hills High School’s auditorium on March 29, Liberty Counsel, an international group dedicated to “advancing religious freedom [and] the sanctity of life and the family,” is allegedly threatening to sue the Pascack Valley Regional High School District if they do not retract the new transgender policy.


The district is working on passing a new transgender policy that will allow transgender students to “have equal educational opportunities and equal access to the school district’s educational programs and activities.” Although many people of the community have responded positively to this new policy, some parents in the district are surprised and shocked regarding these changes.


One of the most vocal community members at the Board of Education (BOE) meeting was Carolee Adams. Adams is a Montvale resident, as well as the leader of the New Jersey chapter of the Eagle Forum, a conservative group whose mission “is to enable conservative and pro-family men and women to participate in the process of self-government and public policy making so that America will continue to be a land of individual liberty, respect for family integrity, public and private virtue, and private enterprise.”

When asked about her view and concerns with the policy, Adams stated, “My focus is about parental rights, the right to privacy, and the legal issues; strictly that. I regret the fact that some media, or even the Board, was trying to paint this as a religious issue. Or, LIberty Counsel being this group that is religious in nature. Yes, it is indeed Judeo-Christian based, but that wasn’t the reason why I contacted them. I was looking for free legal counsel, never thinking they would be painted in such an ugly was by the press, and by some members of the Board.”
Adams continued by stating her concern that the BOE“…didn’t want to involve the parents, they weren’t going to have a parent meeting, and they wanted to rush it through.”

Richard Mast, an attorney for the Liberty Counsel, wrote a letter to the district listing the Liberty Counsel’s concerns with the policy. When asked what the goal of the letter was, Mast said, “We were contacted by concerned residents of the community on the basis that the superintendent and school board have proposed a policy that…was not given adequate information to the parents, and this policy would have recognized gender identity as a protected class over and above biological sex.”


In this letter sent to PVRHSD Superintendent Erik Gundersen, Mast mainly focused on how it would not protect the privacy of other students and staff in the school. With regard to teachers, Mast wrote that this policy would override “…the right of staff who have religious convictions about telling the truth (i.e., it is a lie to call a boy ‘she’), and will have a chilling effect on the First Amendment rights of other students, if they continue to address a gender-confused child by appropriate pronouns, or by the child’s legal name, if it has not been legally changed.”


Many privacy concerns were brought up with regard to students in the letter, one of them being about overnight trips. Mast stated, “The Policy provides no advance notice to parents of the other children, who will likely object to their daughter sleeping in the presence of a gender-confused boy, for instance.”


Mast continued by stating that the policy needs to be “…scrapped, and replaced with one that at a minimum insures that any so-called ‘transgender’ student admitted to opposite-sex spaces does so only with safeguards in place to protect the rights of gender-congruent boys and girls.”


Overall, the Liberty Counsel is concerned with privacy rights of other students and faculty members of our school district. The ending of this letter reads, “If the District stands firm for common sense and privacy, Liberty Counsel is prepared to provide pro bono assistance to the District at no charge to the taxpayers. If the District violates the rights of other students, however, Liberty Counsel is prepared to take further action on their behalf to prevent irreparable harm to cherished liberties.”


In response to the letter PVRHSD Superintendent Erik Gundersen stated, “I think that having a transgender student change in [his or her] identified locker room or restroom is something that is somewhat of a new concept to many people, but with evidence such as the 7-1 vote, the district sees this as a civil rights issue.”


Gundersen continued by saying that the Liberty Counsel “…wrote a letter to us and the [Board of Education] BOE always considers whatever response they get very seriously and read it thoroughly. The Board, including myself, didn’t appreciate the available threat that’s in the letter which is, ‘If you choose not to accept the policy then we will defend you…against any legal action, but if you do pass the policy then you can expect legal action…’”


For more information, the next regular Board of Education meeting will be held on April 11 in the Pascack Valley High School auditorium.