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Parents ask judge to put Forest Hills school board's ability to enforce a controversial resolution on hold

Parents and community members demonstrate outside a Forest Hills School Board meeting in September after the district painted over a diversity mural at Nagel Middle School
Zack Carreon
Parents and community members demonstrate outside a Forest Hills School Board meeting in September after the district painted over a diversity mural at Nagel Middle School.

An attorney representing a group of parents and teachers in the Forest Hills School District filed a motion Monday for a preliminary injunction that would prevent the board from taking any action to enforce its controversial "Culture of Kindness" resolution until the parents' lawsuit against the board is resolved.

Last June, the Forest Hills Board of Education passed a resolution that banned assignments where students would have to consider their race, socioeconomic class, reglion, gender identity, and sexuality. Soon after, the group of parents and teachers filed a federal lawsuit claiming the resolution violated their constitutional rights.

In response, the district said it would not enforce its "Culture of Kindness" resolution until a decision is made by the court, but parents say the board hasn't stuck to its word.

RELATED: Forest Hills superintendent stands by decision to paint over student-created diversity mural

In the motion filed by attorney Nicole Lundrigan, she claims the board enforced the resolution by attempting to discipline a teacher for using her pronouns after stating her name, and at the start of the current school year, the district painted over a mural at Nagel Middle School that promoted diversity and acceptance of people of various sexual orientations. The latter incident caused backlash from some in the community who showed up at the next school board meeting protesting the decision to cover the mural.

Lundrigan's motion also states board member Katie Stewart made multiple attempts to introduce policies that would ban transgender students from using bathrooms that align with their sexual identity.

Natalie Hastings, a Forest Hills parent and plaintiff in the case, told WVXU the board's actions contradict its promise to not enforce the resolution.

"It seems that everyone — but in different cases — different members of the board seem to be enforcing some of the parts of the resolution," Hastings said.

The district has made numerous attempts to have the lawsuit dismissed and board members have claimed the resolution is an unenforceable "vision statement" or "statement of belief.” But last week federal Judge Michael Barrett denied the board's request.

RELATED: Forest Hills School District will not enforce controversial resolution, for now

Barrett writes that the plaintiffs established standing in the case and the board used "mandatory language" such as "shall not" and "will not utilize" in its "Culture of Kindness" resolution. The judge states the board's claim the resolution would not be enforced defies logic and basic conventions of the English language.

In response to the court's decision to not dismiss the case, the Forest Hills Board of Education released a statement expressing its disappointment.

"The Board filed the Motion to Dismiss based on serious and legitimate concerns with the Plaintiffs’ standing to proceed with the litigation. The Board also strongly believes that the Plaintiffs have not provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate any harm caused due to the Board’s resolution," a portion of the statement reads.

The statement goes on to say the board intends to defend its resolution vigorously in court.

The two parties will now wait for the court's decision on the recently filed motion for an injunction.

Zack Carreon is Education reporter for WVXU, covering local school districts and higher education in the Tri-State area.