NJ AG’s Lawsuit Against 3 School Districts Ignores Parents’ Constitutional Rights, Goldwater Institute Attorney Says

Evan Poellinger | August 24, 2023
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As the fight for parental rights heats up across the country, some conservative organizations are lending their support to parents voicing opposition to radical gender indoctrination in the classroom. Notably, the Goldwater Institute has stepped up to aid parents in the face of New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin’s lawsuit against three school districts who have mandated disclosure of students’ gender transitions to their parents.

The Media Research Center (MRC) had the opportunity to speak with Goldwater Institute Staff Attorney Adam Shelton, who has taken the role of lead attorney on the New Jersey case. Shelton told MRC that the Goldwater Institute became involved in the case after it learned about Platkin’s lawsuit against the school districts over their policies requiring than parents be notified about the gender transitioning of their children.

“We saw these school boards adopt these policies and then the New Jersey Attorney General filed a civil complaint over them and then filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction against the policies,” Shelton told MRC. “We reached out to some parental rights groups in New Jersey and started talking to them to see if there was anything we could do to help. That’s where we ended up filing a motion to intervene on behalf of a parent to help defend the policy.”

Shelton said the biggest challenge the Goldwater Institute faces is that of convincing the court to view the case through a different framework than the one presented by AG Platkin. “This case was brought by the attorney general as an anti-discrimination case, so the attorney general is alleging that the policies adopted by the Marlboro Township Board of Education violate New Jersey law against discrimination, or at least how that law has been interpreted by the New Jersey Department of Education,” Shelton explained:

“We are arguing that the question of whether or not it violates the law against discrimination or the interpretation of it is really beside the point. The real question at issue is whether or not the policy (of informing parents) that was adopted by the Marlboro Township Board of Education is required by the Constitution and whether the interpretation relied on by the attorney general violates the Constitution.”

As for the court’s reception of their arguments, Shelton expressed reserved optimism, saying “the court on Friday, issued an injunction against the policies going forward while the administrative complaint is pending, but it acknowledged the importance of parental rights. So, ultimately, we are hopeful that the issue will come out the right way.”

As noted by Shelton, on August 18, Monmouth County Judge David Bauman issued a preliminary injunction against the Middletown, Marlboro, and Manalapan-Englishtown districts’ disclosure policies until a determination is made about the constitutionality of the policies at large. That determination will come when an administrative law judge adjudicates Platkin’s administrative complaint, which was filed on June 21. The hearing on that complaint is not expected to take place until December, 2023, or January, 2024.

Despite the setback, Shelton made it clear that the Goldwater Institute will not back down:

“We are disappointed by the ruling of the court granting the injunction against these policies going forward until the administrative complaint process is finished, but we look forward to continue defending the right of parents to control and direct the education, upbringing, and healthcare decisions of their children in New Jersey.”