Does the transgender ideology pose dangers to school children? Vernadette Broyles is a lawyer representing a girl who claims she was sexually assaulted as a 5-year-old after her school allowed a transgender child to start using the bathroom of the opposite sex. Read the lightly edited interview, posted below, or listen on the podcast:
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Rachel del Guidice: We’re joined today on The Daily Signal Podcast by Vernadette Broyles. She is an attorney for Pascha Thomas and the president and general counsel for the Child and Parental Rights Campaign. Can you tell us about her case and why you filed a lawsuit in the first place?
Broyles: What we ended up filing is actually a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights of the United States Department of Education because we recognize that that was an avenue for her to get relief without having to go through the rigors and the terror and the horrors of a federal court litigation system. …
It was a bit of a strategic decision on our part for various reasons. But we also understood that President Donald Trump had changed the atmosphere in the Department of Education for these kinds of complaints, and they were receptive. So we took that route, which is, frankly, less stressful on the family.
del Guidice: For those who aren’t as familiar with Pascha’s case, can you start from the beginning and give a bird’s-eye view of what happened in her case? Why you filed a lawsuit and her story essentially.
Broyles: Yes. So in 2017, a group of families had discovered that the city schools of Decatur had effectively implemented a policy that allowed students to access privacy facilities, bathrooms, locker rooms, showers in accordance with their gender identity rather than their sex. So it was allowing persons of the opposite sex into these facilities. It was all done in the dark. Unfortunately, by the time we caught hold of it, the statute of limitations for some things had passed.
However, they began to advocate with the school board to expose this and to encourage them to rescind this policy.
In the midst of that, and after a couple of school board meetings that were highly publicized … and during one of the school board meetings, there was a witness that warned, “This policy is going to be used by boys to access girls and private facilities for mischievous purposes.”
Literally one month later, we understand that a gender fluid boy was allowed access into a girls’ bathroom in a elementary school and sexually assaulted Pascha’s daughter.
Once we learned of this and interfaced with her and so forth, ultimately, we then filed the complaint under Title IX with the United States Department of [Education] Office for Civil Rights and that’s where it’s pending right now.
del Guidice: What’s next for the case, what could happen, what do you potentially forecast [and] what may happen down the road?
Broyles: Well, we understand that the case has garnered a tremendous amount of interest within the Department of Education and they are taking quite a bit of time to investigate this.
I suspect that there’s a lot of internal conflict over it. There are still actually some more witnesses potentially to be interviewed. So we don’t know when the decision’s going to come down.
Of course Ms. Thomas retains the right, if she so chooses, after a decision is made and depending upon what happens, if she doesn’t feel like she has been given appropriate relief, she would still retain the right to bring a federal court action for violation of Title IX and violation of equal protection for the sexual assault and for sexual discrimination.
So she still has a number of … arrows in her quiver, and we’re following this first step to see what happens here.
del Guidice: What, if anything, can you share about how this little girl is doing, how her family is doing right now? How are they holding up?
Broyles: This has been very, very hard on them. … What we couldn’t have shared is that the school had called the Department of Family and Children’s Services on this mother when this happened. They made a report that in truth was a smoke screen, in my view, concerning her essentially poverty.
This is a vulnerable mom. She’s a single mother, African American, low socioeconomic financial scale. And I think they recognized that. So they brought an economically-based report that was extremely intimidating, extremely, on her. So it has been very, very hard on them.
del Guidice: … Correct me if I’m wrong, but it almost seems like there’s some social profiling going of the mother here in this case to address this when that’s not the—
Broyles: The school system wanted this case to go away. This case was exposing the very risk that we were warning them about, and they really wanted, I believe, this mother to go away and treated her … her horribly, so shamefully, and did not want to meet with her.
To this day, Superintendent David Dude has never met with her, did not want to. And of course they were forced to meet with her, but the dismissive manner in which she and her daughter were treated was shameful. So yes, I think there was some.
del Guidice: That is tragic. So if parents face a similar situation as Pascha has and find out their school now has a transgender policy that allows children born the opposite sex to use the same sex facilities, bathrooms, locker rooms, what have you, is there anything that parents can do?
Broyles: Yeah, there’s a number of things that parents can do. The most important thing that parents can do right now is to be very present. Look and see what clubs are meeting in your school. If there’s a Gay-Straight Alliance, pay attention. A lot of times the activism is coming through there. Ask your children what’s actually happening on the ground because there could be a policy quietly that’s in place.
If you have any suspicions that a policy has quietly been implemented through some sort of quiet channels, put forth an open records request. … [In] every state in the nation they have open record laws and sunshine laws, and we have templates to put forth the open records request. Find out exactly what’s going on.
Parents have a right to notice if there’s a change in policies … that affect your child, you have a right to notice. And if it was done in violation of your Open Meetings Act or some equivalent state law, you might have a cause of action to undo that, if you catch it in time.
… A second way is in the federal arena agency, of course, to file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights. Now, it is helpful to have an attorney, truthfully, and we have filed on Pascha Thomas’ behalf, but one does not have to have an attorney. So you can get advice from attorney and then file it yourself.
Thirdly, is usually using the federal court system. My law partner and I, and the Child and Parental Rights Campaign, have done a rigorous analysis of the case law, and we’ve come to the conclusion that under the 14th Amendment fundamental parental rights doctrine, due process, fundamental parental rights, that there is a case to be made that what schools are doing is crossing the line.
On the one hand, the case law says that schools have the right to determine curriculum, the use of facilities, and to regulate the environment of their school.
However, there is a line of cases in different parts of the country that says when schools begin to pry into private family matters, begin to directly interfere with the relationship, the decision-making of parents over their children, or begin to coerce children to affirm a belief system that’s contrary to their family’s beliefs, their parents’ beliefs, in violation over their parents’ objections, that it crosses the line now into interfering with the legitimate domain of the parents and the right of parents to be able to direct the care and upbringing of their child and education of their child.
So … after this analysis, we do believe that there is some opportunity for exploiting that. Particularly now that we’re seeing these materials coming out by GLSEN and [Human Rights Campaign], and so forth, that is tutoring teachers and counselors to find ways to circumvent or avoid informing parents about socially transitioning children. These are medical decisions, these are mental health decisions, which lie with parents. I think that that would really bolster a claim.
And then if you have conscripted speech pronoun usage, I think there’s a case to be made that we’re now indoctrinating children. We have captive audiences that are being conscripted to affirm a false worldview, or certainly a worldview that is legitimately contrary to many parents’ beliefs and understanding of science, and that schools have overstepped their bounds and we need to hold them accountable through actions.
del Guidice: What about curriculum? You mentioned parents’ rights—
Broyles: Legal actions, excuse me.
del Guidice: Yeah. When it comes to curriculum, do parents have any legal recourse? We were talking about that when it comes to schools and what steps they should … but how can parents address a curriculum if they see their kid bring something home, a book they’re reading, what does that action look like?
Broyles: Curriculum is a very tough area right now. Unfortunately … because of the Fields decision and the Brown vs. Hot, Sexy, and Safer decision out of the … of the 9th Circuit and out of the 1st Circuit, it has really set back parental rights in the area of curriculum.
So right now, the case law is saying that schools have the authority to set curriculum and just because curriculum has material that is objectionable to parents, the parents really don’t have the right to come in and try to change the curricular decisions of the school. So it’s in a very tough state.
However, what my law partner and I are beginning to question is there’s got to be an outer limit to that and whether we have hit that outer limit in the area of transgender ideology where … you’re going beyond simply exposing children to information by having them read a book, having them learn about something that you might not want them to, to coercing affirmation.
Particularly when you’re actually having them engage in activities that reflect, “I accept this as true,” and if it can be shown to have a harmful effect on them physically. If it’s facilitating social contagion, if it’s facilitating children walking down a path that leads to sterilization, interference with their healthy body development, their fertility, and even the loss of healthy body parts.
If that case can be made, and the foundations of this ideology can be attacked, I think we’ve left the ideology in place for too long. I think we need to actually attack its roots in some case, in some public form, and make a record of that.
I find myself wondering if this might be the case where we can say, “The right of schools to choose curriculum is not infinite. It has an outer boundary, and we’ve hit it.” When it begins to harm children, it begins to deceive children, it begins to indoctrinate children, then that’s where it needs to stop, and we need to push it back.
del Guidice: What alternatives would you suggest to parents who don’t want their children to be subjected to a public school education as this issue becomes more and more prevalent? What suggestions do you have for parents?
Broyles: The easiest response is choose private school because in private school you have far more control; far, far, far, far more control over what happens.
I don’t know if parents … understand this, public schools are protected from most lawsuits, particularly state lawsuits under a doctrine called sovereign immunity, at least in Georgia. And I believe it’s probably very, very similar in most states.
Your child can be beaten to death by another kid at school and it is almost impossible to sue the school for liability under the protections of sovereign immunity for schools. At least in Georgia, and I suspect that most states are pretty similar.
You have to find a federal hook in order to be able to successfully sue schools for the very most part. There’s some exceptions like violations of the Open Meetings Act and things like that, procedural issues.
You lose a great deal of control.
Private school, homeschool. But you know what? Not everybody can afford this. Or as a matter of principle you say I paid taxes, and so I have a right to send my children there, and then my answer is this, “Be very, very present.” Twofold handed. Be very, very present.
I … facilitate and help organize organizations that will have a ameliorative effect on the school. A Bible club. An “empower girls” club. A Fellowship of Christian Athletes club. … Other clubs that would be able to speak with opposing voices because students have free speech rights. Be very, very present because I really believe so much of this is done in the dark because there’s a recognition on the other side that if it’s understood what they’re doing, parents would fight back.
So if you make it clear, “I’m present. We’re present, we’re watching, we’re informed, we’re prepared to act,” I have this feeling that that would dis-empower the bullies, and put them a little bit more on their heels.
del Guidice: Final question, you are involved in the Child and Parental Rights Campaign. You’re the president and general council. Can you give us a sneak peak on how you started this campaign and what you guys are up to right now?
Broyles: Oh, wow. I was a very happy family law practitioner for 13 years … after having been a prosecutor for a while on a commercial litigator. And I got broken for normal with the Pascha Thomas case, and what happened in Decatur. … I hit this wall. I could not have it that this was happening to our children.
I have a [15-year-old daughter] and a 19 year old son … and I just knew I could not be in this world comfortably. I could not coexist with this madness, with this child abuse. It is child abuse. I was a guardian ad litem for 12 years. I represented the best interest of children in high-conflict custody divorces. I went to bat for them in all kinds of cases, and I just could not coexist with this evil.
Long story short, early in the year I made a decision to begin to shutter my private practice and joined up in partnership with Mary McAlister, and we’ve just hired a paralegal and we’re just going live like now with our website. …
The whole point is to begin to represent and defend parents. To be able to guard their children against the harms of gender identity ideology, whether it’s in cases in the courtroom, or it’s advocacy with legislation, or before school boards, or just getting out information and speaking and activating people in the public square. We want to be there.
del Guidice: Where can listeners follow your work if they want to get involved and read the research, the work that you’re doing?
Broyles: Sure. So our website [has] just gone live and it’s www.childparentrights.org.
del Guidice: Awesome. Vernadette, thank you so much for being with us today.
Broyles: You are so welcome.