CPC Asks State Bar to Investigate Attorney General Bonta for Misrepresenting Law to Intimidate School Board
The California Policy Center has asked the State Bar to investigate California Attorney General Rob Bonta for making false statements in an effort to intimidate Chino Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) trustees.
CPC asserts that, in his letters and statements, Bonta misrepresented Department of Education guidance as binding law, and misrepresented federal law.
The complaint asserts that these “menacing and overreaching words and actions” were clearly designed to threaten CVUSD trustees with legal action if they adopted a “Parent Notification Policy.” That policy requires CVUSD school officials, including teachers, to notify parents within 72 hours if they become aware that a student is requesting to use a different name or pronouns, or to participate in sex-segregated sports or use bathrooms that do not align with the student’s biological sex or gender on their birth certificate or other official records.
Despite Bonta’s legal threat, the CVUSD board voted 4-1 on July 20 to adopt the policy.
Bonta was undeterred. The complaint notes the attorney general announced “on August 4, 2023, that his state Department of Justice had opened a civil rights investigation ‘into potential legal violations by the Chino Valley Unified School District (CVUSD).’”
CPC’s Bar complaint asserts that Bonta’s false and misleading statements were part of a political intimidation campaign.
“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,” said CPC president Will Swaim, who filed the Bar complaint on behalf of CPC.
The complaint notes that Bonta’s “false and misleading statements” had a real-world impact. “Most notably, citing Bonta’s letter to the board, leaders of the district’s teachers union have announced that they have instructed their members to ignore the board’s decision,” the complaint reads.
CPC asks the State Bar to investigate with speed, noting that Bonta “continues to flout state and constitutional law.” On August 11, the complaint notes, Bonta repeated his false and misleading statements following a vote of the Murrieta Valley Unified School District board to adopt a parental notification policy similar to Chino Valley’s.
Swaim says this sort of investigation is exactly why the Bar was established.
“The state bar has repeatedly demonstrated its readiness to investigate attorneys for precisely this sort of menacing behavior,” Swaim said. “For instance, the bar’s current investigation into the actions of California attorney John Eastman is built upon the bar’s declaration that, ‘[f]or California attorneys, adherence to the U.S. and California Constitutions is their highest legal duty.’
CPC’s complaint points out that, on federal law, the state’s top attorney is simply wrong. Bonta “knows or should know that parents’ rights over their children are deeply rooted in the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and repeatedly recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court,” the complaint reads.
“Significantly, the U.S. Supreme Court recognizes this foundational truth of parental supremacy over the family and presumes that parents are best equipped and situated, physically and emotionally, to lead, guide and direct their child: ‘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, 442 U.S. at 602.
The complaint identifies other misleading statements in Bonta’s July 20 letter:
- Bonta’s evidence of the privacy rights of children includes references to state Department of Education guidance. “But guidance is just guidance,” said Swaim. “It’s not binding state or federal law.”
- Bonta’s citation of federal law seems deliberately to misread the few cases he cites. For instance, in concluding that “Disclosing that a student is transgender without the student’s permission… may violate the student’s right to privacy” (emphasis added), Bonta cites Whalen v. Roe, 429 U.S. 589, 598-600 (1997). But Whalen stands only for the proposition that personal medical records are subject to privacy protections. While that may prohibit the state from releasing such records to third parties, it does not suggest that states must – or even may – conceal medical or health-related information from the parents or guardians of minor children. Similarly, Bonta completely inflates the significance of C.N. v. Wolfe, 410 F.Supp.2d 894, 903 (C.D. Cal. 2005). There, a student’s novel privacy claim survived a motion to dismiss in federal district court — but the judge’s ruling was merely that the case could continue in court, not a decision on the merits of the case, and has no precedential value whatsoever. Importantly, that case did not address or discuss parental rights at all.
- Failing at law, Bonta turned to media reports, scrambling to find proof that his opposition to CVUSD’s new policy is grounded in evidence that notifying parents of their children’s on-campus behavior “is very likely to result in significant emotional, mental, and even physical harm” to their children. To support that claim, Bonta takes us more than 1,700 miles from Sacramento to a school district in far-off Oklahoma where parents in one school allegedly threatened to harm a transgender student. But the story he cites does not show what Bonta says it shows: the Oklahoma parents threatening the transgender seventh-grader were not the child’s parents. They were, in fact, the parents of other children who had heard rumors that the transgender student peeped their children over the stalls in the girl’s bathrooms.
“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,” said Lance Christensen, CPC’s Vice President of Education Policy and Government Affairs. “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.”