A Waukesha County Circuit Court ruled Tuesday in favor of Wisconsin parents, deciding that a Wisconsin school district “abrogated” parents’ rights when it decided to socially “affirm” their daughter as a transgender boy against their wishes.
Represented by Alliance Defending Freedom and the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, two sets of Wisconsin parents had sued Kettle Moraine School District, accusing the district of violating their parental rights by “adopting a policy to allow, facilitate, and affirm a minor student’s request to transition to a different gender identity at school without parental consent and even over the parents’ objection.”
Circuit Court Judge Michael Maxwell granted the parents’ motion for summary judgment Monday, ruling on the merits of the case without a trial. His ruling and order, which the clerk filed Tuesday, said that the case dealt with “whether a school district can supplant a parent’s right to control the healthcare and medical decisions for their children.”
“The well established case law in that regard is clear,” he ruled. “Kettle Moraine can not.”
The judge concluded: “The current policy of handling these issues on a case-by-case basis without either notifying the parents or by disregarding the parents’ wishes is not permissible and violates fundamental parental rights.”
Maxwell ruled in favor of the parents and issued an order preventing Kettle Moraine School District from “allowing or requiring staff to refer to students using a name or pronouns at odds with the student’s biological sex, while at school, without express parental consent.”
The parents’ lawsuit, filed in the Waukesha County Circuit Court in November 2021, alleged that Kettle Moraine School District violated the constitutionally protected rights of one set of parents when it allegedly pushed their 12-year-old daughter toward a significant life decision she was not prepared to make by socially affirming her claimed gender identity against her parents’ wishes.
Another set of parents mentioned in the suit expressed concerns that the district would push their two children towards gender transition in the same fashion.
“I am so grateful the Court has found that this policy harms children and undermines the rights of parents to direct the upbringing of their children,” Tammy, the mother of one of the children named in the lawsuit, told The Daily Signal. (She asked that her last name be withheld to protect the family’s privacy.)
“Our daughter experienced increased anxiety and depression and her school responded to this by disregarding our parental guidance,” she explained. “Since leaving the school and allowing our daughter time to work through her mental health concerns, she has been able to healthily thrive and grow. Parents should be concerned when school districts disregard their concerns and override the voice and role of parents.”
That 12-year-old girl began experiencing “rapid onset gender dysphoria” as well as “significant anxiety and depression” in December 2020, attorneys from ADF and the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty said in a May 2021 letter to members of the school district.
Her parents temporarily withdrew her from Kettle Moraine Middle School so she could attend a mental health center and process what was going on, but the center allegedly affirmed to her that she was actually a boy and encouraged her to transition. So in early January, according to the letter, she told her parents that she wanted to use a boy name and boy pronouns at school.
The girl’s parents decided that “immediately transitioning would not be in their daughter’s best interest,” the letter said, and they 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.
“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.”
Kettle Moraine School District did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Daily Signal. But the parents’ legal teams hailed the news as a “groundbreaking legal victory” for parental rights.
“This victory represents a major win for parental rights,” said Luke Berg, Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty deputy counsel, said in a statement Tuesday. “The court confirmed that parents, not educators or school faculty, have the right to decide whether a social transition is in their own child’s best interests. The decision should be a warning to the many districts across the country with similar policies to exclude parents from gender transitions at school.”
Kate Anderson, director of the ADF Center for Parental Rights, emphasized that “parents’ rights to direct the upbringing and education of their children is one of the most basic constitutional rights every parent holds dear.”
“We are seeing more and more school districts across the country not only ignoring parents’ concerns but actively working against them,” she warned. “The court was right to respect the serious concerns of these parents by holding that Kettle Moraine School District’s policy, which undermines parents and harms children, violates the Wisconsin Constitution.”
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