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Wednesday, August 10th, 2022
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MADISON — The Oconomowoc Area School District is threatening to sue a local mom for publicly criticizing the school system’s use of controversial educational materials. The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty is reminding the district that there’s still a First Amendment in the U.S. Constitution.

On Friday, WILL sent a letter to Oconomowoc Schools making clear that Alexandra Schweitzer’s public statements about books and materials available to students —  such as Gender Quest Workbook, It’s Perfectly Normal, and Queer — do not meet the legal standard for defamation and that her speech is protected under the First Amendment.

“First, we request that the District revoke its cease and desist letter. Second, we request confirmation from the District that it will stop spending taxpayer dollars to fund bullying tactics via legal counsel,” the Milwaukee-based civil rights law firm demands. “The District should instead focus on educating its students with age- appropriate material.”

District officials took offence with Schweitzer speaking out about the woke agenda materials accessible to children and being used in the classroom — without proper parental notification. She became so frustrated, she removed her children from the public school and enrolled them in a charter school. But Schweitzer continues to speak out..

As President of No Left Turn in Education-Wisconsin, Schweitzer voiced her concerns, and those of district parents, in public forums and in testimony before the Wisconsin Legislature.

“We discovered that one of the books, the Gender Quest Workbook, coaches kids that gender is ‘a whole spectrum of possibilities’ and encourages them to question their gender identity,” she wrote on her website. “I was mortified to find out that, a year earlier, my then-5th grade daughter was also exposed to another book called It’s Perfectly Normal, which targets kids as young as ten. It describes sex acts, even providing graphic illustrations that clearly violate the will of the parents and blur the legal lines put in place to protect children. The presence of such books in school is unacceptable.”

In May, attorneys for the Oconomowoc School Board issued a cease and desist letter to Schweitzer threatening legal action and demanding she revoke her public statements.

Attorneys representing the district accuse Schweitzer of making “false and defamatory statements … distributed to numerous parents and community members” through her organization’s website. They claim Schweitzer knew one of the publications in question is “mentor text available only to teachers for checkout and use in instruction and that only small portions of the text were read aloud for the purpose of critical thinking and writing craft.” They also claim other texts Schweitzer deemed inappropriate are not available to district students in the library for checkout, “nor are they used in the District’s curriculum.”

WILL notes in its warning letter, however, that the titles were accessible through student Chromebooks.

“Upon reviewing the Sora (student reading app) on her son’s Chromebook, Ms. Schweitzer found several questionable books available to students without any parental or teacher oversight,” WILL’s letter states. The law firm also takes issue with the district’s characterization of the so-called “mentor text.”

“In sum, none of the statements by Ms. Schweitzer were defamatory. She will not be revoking them. Additionally, the decision by the District to use outside counsel to threaten parents after they speak out is concerning and must end,” the letter asserts.

The district’s attempt to silence a mom with legal threats is troubling, said Rick Esenberg, WILL’s president and General Counsel.

“The District’s accusations of defamation are weak. This tactic needs to be called out for what it is: bullying a critic,” he said.

Schweitzer said she won’t be silenced.

“School districts need to know that parents won’t back down and legal threats won’t deter us from looking out for our kids,” she said.

District officials could not be reached for comment.

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