The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a preliminary injunction this week against an Iowa school district that threatened to suspend or expel students who refused to use transgender pronouns when speaking to gender-confused students.

The pronoun policy is part of a larger lawsuit against the district’s overall approach to transgender issues. Alaska was one of 18 states that joined a brief opposing the school district’s multi-faceted transgender policy.

While the three-judge federal panel declined to rule on other aspects of the policy, such as schools keeping parents in the dark about their child’s gender identity, it noted that these disputes were resolved on the state level when Iowa enacted a law this summer barring schools from providing parents with “false or misleading information” about their children’s gender identity or “intention to transition.”

On the question of pronoun usage, however, the judge panel blocked enforcement of the policy, stating that a “school district cannot violate the strictures of the First Amendment simply because a student’s speech is found to be “merely offensive to some listener.”

The issue came to a head when Iowa parents raised concern that their children were fearful of being punished for claiming that biological sex is immutable and unchanging.

The Iowa school district’s policy required students to demonstrate an ill-defined “respect” for those who wished to be addressed by a pronoun that did not fit their biological sex.

In ruling against the district, the court said the policy was poorly defined and open to arbitrary enforcement.

The Iowa policy has many similarities to the Anchorage School District’s policy, which, while pertaining to staff, states that they “should respect the right of an individual to be addressed by a name and pronoun that corresponds to their gender identity.”

Anchorage’s policy also directs staff to conceal a student’s gender identity from parents the student indicates otherwise.

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Federal court blocks Iowa schools’ transgender pronoun policy, which is similar to Anchorage’s

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.


  • SA says:

    This article makes a couple of misleading and factually-inaccurate claims about the Federal Court’s ruling. First of all, nowhere in the decision is there any mention of the Linn-Mar Community School District having “threatened to suspend or expel students who refused to use transgender pronouns when speaking to gender-confused students.” Instead, the Court found that one of the appellants was likely to succeed in their claim because other school district policies had enforcement policies that included possible suspension or expulsion. But to be clear, the Linn-Mar Community School District was not found to have threatened expulsion or suspension of any of the parents’ children who filed the appeal.

    Most of the claims made by the appellants were found to be moot under a new state law or to be unfounded. The only surviving challenge to the school district’s policy was based on students’ expressed worry, conveyed by their parents, that they might be violating the school’s policy if they “disrespected” a student’s gender identity. The Court ruled that the students’ right to freedom of speech under the first amendment was at risk solely because the policy, as written, was “vague” as to what constituted “respect for a student’s gender identity.” All of the other claims made by the appellees were ruled to be moot or unfounded based on the evidence provided. Unlike the claim in this article that the appeal was driven by “Iowa parents,” the facts of the case demonstrate that there was only a handful of actual Iowa parents involved in the appeal; There were seven parents, all of them anonymous, who were identified only by the letters A-G. The vast majority of appellees were religious organizations, conservative and right wing organizations such as Moms for Liberty and Concerned Women for America, and attorneys general from red states, including Alaska. There were 61 organizations who filed the appeal.

    The judges noted that the school district was “between a rock and a hard place” because federal Title IX and VII law, plus Iowa’s own law prohibiting harassment, bullying, or discrimination against individuals based on their gender identity conflicted with the First Amendment’s right of free speech.
    Here is a link to the Court’s decision:

    • Davidson Joel says:

      Part of the Linn-Mar School District policy explicitly states that the “Intentional and/or persistent refusal by staff or students to respect a student’s gender identity is a violation of school board policies.”
      Students who violated the policy could have been disciplined – including “suspension and expulsion.”
      The policy required students and staff to “respect a student’s gender identity,” but it did not clarify what this meant in practice.
      According to the ruling, several parents stated that they and “their children believe that biological sex is immutable, and that people cannot ‘transition’ from one sex to another.” However, because the policy requires a student to ‘respect’ another student’s gender identity, their children face discipline if they do not affirm beliefs with which they disagree or if they express views that are deemed “disrespectful” by an administrator.”
      Parents said their children were forced to “remain silent in school environments or refrain from using sex-specific pronouns to avoid violating the policy.”
      The court ruled, “The District’s policy does not provide adequate notice of what conduct is prohibited, because it fails to define the term ‘respect,’” adding, “The lack of clarity also makes the policy susceptible to arbitrary enforcement.”
      The other points of the lawsuit were deemed “moot,” as you say because Iowa enacted an education bill this past July that banned books with written and visual depictions of sex; forbade schools from teaching kindergarten through sixth grade students about homosexuality and transgenderism; and required parental notification if a student began going by a different name at school.
      The court ruled that the new law made parts of the lawsuit moot, since the legislature had already addressed the issues.

      • SA says:

        Thanks, Joel, for your response to my comment. The court document notes that, ” Parents D and G allege that their children remain silent in school environments or refrain from using sex-specific pronouns to avoid violating the policy.” You, however, incorrectly claimed that “Parents said their children were forced to remain silent” when, according to the court document, the children CHOSE to be silent. You made a similar incorrect claim when you stated that “an Iowa school district… threatened to suspend or expel students.” While the school district policy did allow for the possibility of suspension or expulsion for students who refused to adhere to district policy, according to the court document provided, the Linn-Mar school district did NOT issue an actual threat of expulsion or suspension to the students.

      • Davidson Joel says:

        SA – The kids didn’t have any real choice. It was either keep your thoughts to yourself, or you face the threat (noted in the policy) of suspension or expulsion.

  • AK Fish says:

    SO, will this ruling impact Government workplaces where Federal and State policies ” … required workers to demonstrate an ill-defined “respect” for those who wished to be addressed by a pronoun that did not fit their biological sex.?? State of Alaska commission has some mindless drivel (Actual Guide) regarding gender identification harassment. See ALASKA STATE COMMISSION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS U.S. EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION LGBTQ DISCRIMINATION GUIDE at

    Example: Could use of pronouns or names that are inconsistent with an individual’s gender identity be considered harassment? Yes, in certain circumstances. Unlawful harassment includes unwelcome conduct that is based on gender identity.

    Oh really? It may be unwelcome by the person trying to force their viewpoint on others (wouldn’t that be transgender harassment against straight people and a “violation” of our human rights as biological males and females?). Flip the script.

  • I Wanna Know says:

    How many drag queens broke into schools last year and killed people with banned books ?