Wisconsin high court to hear parents’ challenge to school district's gender transition policy

A sign outside a classroom taken in 2016. |

Parents suing a Wisconsin school district over a policy that allows officials to withhold knowledge of students’ efforts to change their gender identity from their families will have their case brought before the state supreme court.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed last Friday to grant a motion for review in the case of Doe v. Madison Metropolitan School District. The case centers on the school district’s policy guidance related to trans-identified students.

The unnamed parents suing the school district are represented by the conservative legal nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom and the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty.

“We are pleased the Wisconsin Supreme Court has agreed to hear this important case,” WILL Deputy Counsel Luke Berg said in a statement. “The Madison Metropolitan School District cannot make decisions reserved for parents.”

ADF and WILL filed the lawsuit against Madison Metropolitan School District in February 2020 over its 2018 directive “Guidance & Policies to Support Transgender, Non-binary & Gender Expansive Students.” 

The policy seeks to make the school district more inclusive of trans-identified students.

“In MMSD, we will strive to model gender-inclusive language that affirms the gender diversity of our MMSD students, staff, and families and disrupts the gender binary,” page 26 of the document states. 

The document says that school officials will help guide students through their “gender transition.” The policy allows the student to decide if their parents should be informed of these changes.

Additionally, the guidance says that children “will be called by their affirmed name and pronouns regardless of parent/guardian permission to change their name and gender in MMSD systems.”

“Transgender, non-binary, and gender-expansive students are disproportionately targeted for teasing, bullying, harassment, and physical violence. MMSD staff must consistently confront and report suspected bullying or other behaviors that contribute to an unsafe school community,” added the guidance.

“This may include name calling, misgendering, microaggressions, and bullying based on gender stereotypes, gender identity, and/or gender expression.”

The parents contend that the policy violates parental rights and ignores state law on school confidentiality.

In September 2020, Dane County Court Judge Frank Remington issued a temporary injunction against parts of the school district guidance, namely the refusal to disclose a gender transition to parents.

Remington also concluded in his temporary injunction that he believes that the parents, by remaining anonymous, failed to provide evidence that the guidance harmed them specifically.

“[A]nonymous plaintiffs effectively deny the Defendants and the Intervenors the ability to engage in discovery or to otherwise respond to the facts presented by the Plaintiffs in their motion as to the Plaintiffs themselves,” Remington wrote.

“By remaining anonymous and by asking this court to make evidentiary findings regarding irreparable harm or an adequate remedy unfairly deprives the Defendants a meaningful opportunity to challenge Plaintiffs’ factual assertions.”

An MMSD spokesperson has maintained that the school district can’t comment on pending litigation. 

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