A Wisconsin school district addressed a 12-year-old female student using both a male name and male pronouns against her parents’ objections, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday.
Filed by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty and Alliance Defending Freedom in the Waukesha County Circuit Court, the lawsuit alleges that Kettle Moraine School District violated the constitutionally protected rights of the girls’ parents and pushed the 12-year-old toward a significant life decision she was not prepared to make.
Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Kate Anderson told The Daily Signal Tuesday evening that the Wisconsin case reflects policies the legal organization has seen in states across the country, including Wisconsin, Virginia, and Washington state.
“Parents have the right to direct the upbringing of their children, and at the heart of it, parents just want information about what’s going on with their kids at school,” Anderson said. “And these policies are so dangerous because they’re allowing schools to encourage students to begin transitioning into a gender identity that isn’t in accord with their biological sex, and then not inform their parents, and in many cases lie to the parents affirmatively about what their student is doing at school.”
“When schools are blocking parents from basic information about their child’s health care, that prevents parents from doing what’s best for their kids and what, constitutionally, they have every right to do to direct the upbringing of their children,” she added.
Attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom and the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty sent a letter in May to members of the school district highlighting that the 12-year-old girl began experiencing “rapid onset gender dysphoria” as well as “significant anxiety and depression” in December 2020.
Her parents “temporarily withdrew her from the Kettle Moraine Middle School to allow her to attend a mental health center where she could process what she was experiencing,” the letter said.
“But instead of helping her work through her questions about her gender, the center quickly ‘affirmed’ that she was really a transgender boy and encouraged her to transition to a male identity,” the attorneys continued. “In early January, she expressed to her parents and school staff that she wanted to adopt a male name and pronouns when she returned to school.”
The girl’s parents decided that “immediately transitioning would not be in their daughter’s best interest,” the letter said, and they reportedly told their daughter that they wanted her to explore the cause of her feelings before taking such a significant step.
They also asked the staff at the school to continue using her legal name and female pronouns, the letter said.
“But the District refused to honor their request,” the attorneys wrote, and the parents “were told that, pursuant to District policy, school staff would be required to address their daughter using a male name and pronouns if that’s what she wanted.”
The parents then had no choice but to withdraw her from the school district and to distance her from the mental health center and therapist she had been seeing, the letter said, “concerned that daily affirmation of a male identity could harm their daughter.”
The letter continued:
The concerns were soon validated. After leaving the center and withdrawing from school, their daughter’s demeanor began to change. A few weeks later, she expressed to her mother that ‘affirmative care really messed me up.’ She explained that the therapists at the center did not question or help her process her feelings, but told her that, now that she knew she was really a boy, the sooner she transitioned the better because it’s easier when you’re young. They also told her she was right to be angry at her mother for not immediately allowing her to ‘be who she was.’ She now realizes this was wrong and actually fueled anger towards her mother. She has reverted to identifying by her birth name and female pronouns and enrolled in a different school district.
But the school district ignored the letter, Alliance Defending Freedom said in a press release, leaving the parents no other option but to sue.
“Our goal is to ensure that what happened to [REDACTED] never happens again,” the letter said.
The lawsuit challenges the school’s policy that allows students who are minors to change their name and their pronouns at school without their parents’ consent.
“Schools cannot override parents when it comes to decisions about their children,” Luke Berg, deputy counsel at the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, said in a statement. “Students’ decisions about what names and genders pronouns they prefer are no exception. Schools must defer to parents about what is best for their child.”
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