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MPS fires gender identity critic

By M.D. Kittle

Wisconsin Spotlight | Nov. 17, 2022

MADISON — Former Milwaukee Public Schools counselor Marissa Darlingh was fired for speaking out against the radical gender identity movement at a Madison rally earlier this year. Now she’s suing the district, alleging MPS violated her First Amendment rights.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty on Wednesday filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court-Wisconsin Eastern District, charging that the district’s primary basis for firing Daringh was her speech at the April feminist rally in Madison.

“Their actions violated Ms. Darlingh’s clearly established constitutional rights under the First Amendment and the Due Process Clause. This action seeks to vindicate those rights,” the lawsuit asserts.

Darlingh was a counselor at Allen-Field Elementary School in Milwaukee when she spoke at the weekend demonstration at the State Capitol.

The lawsuit notes Darlingh gave a short, unscripted speech, where she publicly expressed that she “oppose[s] gender ideology” in elementary schools and that young children should not be “exposed to the harms of gender identity ideology” or given “unfettered access to hormones—wrong-sex hormones—and surgery.” She argued passionately that she “exist[s] in this world to serve children” and “to protect children,” and does not support social or medical transition of young children. In the passion of the moment, she yelled, “F—  transgenderism!”

The Cancel Culture quickly stepped in.

A group protesting the rally organized a campaign to get Darlingh fired from her job, according to the lawsuit. As she later learned, her supervisor immediately began an “investigation” in response to a few emails from these individuals, none of whom claimed to have any connection to MPS or any knowledge of Darlingh’s work.

The investigation revealed that her speech had little impact on her school or students between April and June, and that many students in her school viewed her as their favorite teacher, the lawsuit states. Nonetheless, without any prior warning or discussion, Darlingh’s supervisor and two MPS employees in the Human Resources Department initiated misconduct proceedings against her, then suspended her, and then imposed a no-trespass order, all right before the school year ended. Darlingh spent the summer attempting to resolve the issue with the district, but the employees in charge of the proceedings were uninterested in any resolution short of termination; and on Sept. 30, 2022, they fired her.

“The District has blatantly violated Ms. Darlingh’s First Amendment rights,” said Luke Berg, Deputy Counsel for the Milwaukee-based civil rights law firm. “Firing her for expressing her views on such an important subject is not only inexcusable, but unconstitutional.”

Daringh received no notification of the grounds of her suspension and no-trespass order, and the district refused to schedule a hearing to allow her to respond, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, reinstatement to her prior status and position at Allen-Field Elementary School, back-pay, and damages for the constitutional violations. WILL also asks the court to order MPS to remove the no-trespass order against Ms. Darlingh so that she can attend public events and vote on MPS property.

MPS did not return Wisconsin Spotlight’s requests for comment.

“As a private citizen, I have the right to express my views concerning gender ideology on my own time, and identifying myself as a school counselor doesn’t negate that right,” Darlingh said. “My speech had little to no impact on my students, their educational experience or our therapeutic relationship. The basis of my unscripted speech stemmed from my desire to protect children.”

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