MADISON — Two families are suing the Kettle Moraine School District in a parental rights case that challenges the school system’s policy on gender identity.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Waukesha County Circuit Court by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), takes aim at a policy that “facilitates and ‘affirms’ a minor student’s gender transition at school, even over the parents’ objection.” The complaint alleges Kettle Moraine’s policy violates parents’ constitutional rights to raise their children by taking a major, controversial, and potentially life-altering decision out of parents’ hands.
“Schools cannot override parents when it comes to decisions about their children. Gender identity transitions are no exception. Schools must defer to parents about what is best for their child,” Luke Berg, WILL’s deputy counsel, said in in a statement.
A Kettle Moraine spokesman said the district can’t comment on pending litigation.
The district was warned in May that it could expect a lawsuit if it didn’t change its policy.
The legal battle began after a couple removed their daughter from a district school. District educrats had told the parents they would allow the girl to change her identity at school against the family’s wishes. As the lawsuit notes, the student began to question her gender in December 2020, and, for a time, wanted to go by a male name and pronouns while at school. The family sought professional and medical support for her, and after extensive research, decided that immediately transitioning would not be in her best interest, the lawsuit states.
“They communicated this directly to Kettle Moraine School District staff in January 2021, and asked staff to continue referring to their daughter using her legal name and female pronouns. But the Kettle Moraine School District refused to honor their decision,” the claim asserts. “The principal informed them that it was district policy that if their daughter returned to school, school staff would refer to her using whatever name and pronouns she wanted while at school, even over her parents’ objection.”
A few weeks after the couple withdrew their daughter from school, she realized her parents were right and has re-embraced her birth name and her nature as a girl, according to the complaint. The child is now enrolled in a different school district.
The lawsuit notes the constitutional “inherent right” of parents to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control. Parents, not educrats, are the primary decision-makers for their minor children. Kettle Moraine “adopted a policy that disregards parents’ decisions about how their children will be addressed at school.”
“Parents’ rights to direct the upbringing, education, and mental health treatment of their children is one of the most basic constitutional rights every parent holds dear. Yet we are seeing more and more school districts across the country not only ignoring parents’ concerns, but actively working against them,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kate Anderson, director of the ADF Center for Parental Rights.
The lawsuit points to medical experts and research showing transitioning to a different gender identity at a young age can become self-reinforcing and even do long-term harm.
“The Kettle Moraine School District’s policy disregards these medical professionals and instead takes this life-altering decision out of parents’ hands and places it with educators,” the press release states. “By enabling minor students to transition at school over their parents’ objection, the district is effectively making a treatment decision without the legal authority to do so and without informed consent from the parents. This policy violates the constitutionally recognized rights of parents to raise their children.”
WILL took on the Madison Metropolitan School District last year in a similar lawsuit. A Dane County judge in September 2020 issued an injunction stopping the district from continuing its gender identity policy that overstepped the will of parents.
The judge found Madison’s policy violated the Wisconsin constitution’s due process clause and religious freedom guarantees.