Student who sued Ryan Walters over pronoun rule requests case be tried in state court

Attorneys for a Moore student who sued state schools Superintendent Ryan Walters and the state Board of Education over the board’s denial of the student’s request to change their pronouns in school records want the case moved back to state court.

This week, the student’s attorneys filed an amended version of the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma that they say dismissed “all claims brought under federal law.” They also asked U.S. District Court Judge David Russell to move the case back to Cleveland County District Court, where it originally was filed on Dec. 21.

“The nature of the claims requires resolution of questions which determine the limit of state executive agency power and the necessary procedural due process before state actors can adjudicate or deprive its citizens of their fundamental rights. Certainly, the state courts are better suited to resolve those matters,” attorney Leslie Briggs wrote in a brief, asking the federal court to move the case back to the state.

The state Board of Education, meeting Thursday, had an item on its agenda for a closed meeting to discuss the case, known as Doe v. Walters. Russell has not made any decision regarding the latest request from Doe’s attorneys.

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Board of Education adopted pronoun rules in September

On Sept. 28, the state board approved a temporary rule prohibiting school districts and local schools from “altering sex or gender designations in past student records without authorization from the State Board of Education.”

During its meeting on Oct. 27, the board voted 5-0 to reject requests from the Moore and Cushing school districts to authorize changing the gender or sex designation of students currently in those districts’ student information system. Both districts had received court orders — from Cleveland and Payne counties, respectively — to make those changes, but Walters dismissed the requests out of hand. Bryan Cleveland, the general counsel for the Oklahoma State Department of Education, called the court orders “illegal.”

“We now have a second issue of a left-wing, activist judge issuing a ruling to a district directly using almost identical language,” Walters said at the time. “I believe we’ve got to continue to stand in the way of these radical leftist Biden judges that are sitting here trying to dictate this to our schools." In Oklahoma, state court judges are appointed by the governor, not the U.S. president.

On Dec. 21, just hours after being sued over the issue, the state board deferred voting on making the rule change permanent, but despite the lawsuit, the board voted on Jan. 25 to do so. By that time, the case had been transferred to federal court.

Walters, state board have already lost one ruling in the lawsuit

The lawsuit was filed by the Oklahoma Equality Law Center and the Oklahoma Appleseed Center for Law and Justice on behalf of a Moore Public Schools student, referred to in the lawsuit as “J. Doe.” In federal court, the plaintiff asked to proceed with the lawsuit under that pseudonym “to protect the privacy and safety” of the student, although they had no issue with revealing their legal names to the defendants.

Walters and the board opposed that motion, likening transgender status to “routine personal information,” according to an order from Russell. Russell disagreed.

“The fact that some individuals have chosen to publicly acknowledge their transgender status does not undermine the reality that transgender status is a highly sensitive and private matter for many individuals, including apparently, J. Doe,” Russell said in the Feb. 12 order approving Doe’s request for anonymity.

In the lawsuit, Doe asked the court to declare the state board’s rule “invalid as beyond the score of the grant of rulemaking authority by the Legislature to the Board.” The suit also asks for both a temporary and permanent injunction to “restrain Defendants from violating Plaintiff’s rights” secured by the state Constitution as well as for attorney fees and costs and “any other relief as the Court deems just and proper under the facts, as may be developed through discovery, and applicable law.”

In December, in response to the lawsuit, Walters issued a statement through a spokesman saying, “Radical gender theory has led some people to fight the obvious, God-given biological nature of human beings: that there are two genders, male and female. Our pronoun policy aligns with common sense, truth, and reality and protects schools and teachers from unfounded accusations of discrimination. This frivolous lawsuit, propped up by the extreme left, is an unserious distraction from the very serious business of improving Oklahoma schools for all our students.”

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Student suing Walters over pronouns rule wants case in state court