Fourteen individual parents from eight families have filed a lawsuit against a Wisconsin school district over an administrative policy allowing teachers to affirm a student’s preferred gender identity without parental permission.
In April 2018, Madison Metropolitan School District adopted “Guidance and Policies to Support Transgender, Non-binary & Gender-Expansive Students,” which covers topics such as “all gender restrooms,” LGBTQ-inclusive curricula and gender pronouns. The document also specifies that if the student has not yet shared gender identity preferences with family members, school staff should use the child’s legal name and corresponding pronoun when communicating with family, but use the name and pronoun chosen by the child in school settings.
“MMSD policies enable children, of any age, to change their gender identity at school without parental notice or consent, and instruct district employees to conceal and even deceive parents about the gender identity their son or daughter has adopted at school,” a statement from Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, the law firm representing the 14 parents, says. “These policies violate critical constitutionally recognized parental rights.”
The law firm issued a demand letter to MMSD on Dec. 18 asking the school district to update and amend its policies within 45 days. The district refused.
“Effectively what this is doing is taking a very significant and major life and healthcare-related decision and telling students, ‘You have the right to make this totally independent of your parents, and we’re actually going to help you hide this from your parents if you want,” said Luke Berg, an attorney for the Wisconsin firm.
MMSD says that it stands by its guidance document, arguing that it is meant to maintain confidentiality between students and staff.
But parents worry that by not being notified about their child’s gender identity issues, the child may not receive the treatment needed to address the underlying causes of gender dysphoria.
According to the lawsuit, many of the plaintiffs hold to the Biblical belief that “two sexes are a core part of God’s intended design for humanity and that the sex each of us is born with is a gift, not an arbitrary imposition.”
If the parents were aware of their children’s gender dysphoria, they would “not immediately ‘affirm’ whatever beliefs their children might have about their gender, but would instead remind them that they were ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Psalm 139:14),” the law firm noted.
“A public school district should not, and cannot, make decisions reserved for parents,” said Rick Esenberg, Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty’s president and general counsel.
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