Frederick Short Jr., whose three children attend Cherry Hill High School, has filed the federal lawsuit to block a state policy that prevents schools from telling parents about their child's "transitioning" at school. He argues that it violates his constitutional right to raise his children and make decisions about their mental healthcare.
"It was just so weird of a policy that my son, who's a freshman, could meet a guidance counselor, and a guidance counselor could start having conversations about gender and medical things, and I wouldn't know anything about it," says Short.
His son does not want to "change" his gender or go by different pronouns. If he were struggling with his identity, Short hopes his son would come to him. Otherwise, it would be years before he would find out about it.
"People often say that the parent is mad at the child for doing this, but it's really the opposite," the father submits. "I think I would be more mad at the school for not telling me for four years that he's changed his name."
Short's attorney, Thomas Stavola, tells AFN the claims at stake here are based on the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.
The school has three weeks to respond to the lawsuit, so it will be mid-November before anything happens in court. The response will either be an answer or a motion to dismiss. The next step will then be within the purview of the judge.
Meanwhile, Short says he has received positivity from the community. He believes he speaks for a "large, silent majority" in the Garden State. Referencing Monmouth University polls that show 78%-82% support for parents' rights in his state, Short thinks most people are simply afraid to speak up.
"When you see something wrong, you have to speak up," he insists.
Stavola says this is a case to watch, because a victory in New Jersey would carry implications in terms of setting favorable case precedent for other case districts throughout the country.
"It would indicate that the parents' fundamental right to direct their children's medical care is upheld," the attorney explains. "This would serve as persuasive, although not dispositive, case precedent on which to base future cases."
Stavola is seeking to block the problematic state policy and stymie its progression throughout the country because it has essentially "detached the parent from the child and fostered this atmosphere of mistrust and ultimately harm to the child psychologically."
"Living double lives of secrecy rarely leads to good psychological health," the attorney concludes.
Regarding the lawsuit, which is filed in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey, Cherry Hill High School has told AFN it "cannot commenting on pending litigation."