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Gender identity: Madison schools barred from keeping parents in dark

But court concerned about plaintiffs remaining anonymous

The Brillion News

MADISON – A Dane County Circuit Court Judge has issued an injunction barring the Madison Metropolitan School District from hiding students’ gender identity expressions at school from the parents of those students.

The school district issued a document in April 2018 titled “Guidance & Policies to Support Transgender, Non-binary & Gender-Expansive Students” and it suggests that school district staff conceal information in response to parents’ questions about their child’s expression of gender in school.

On September 28, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Frank Remington issued an injunction that forbids Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) employees from lying to or deceiving parents about the gender identity that their child may have adopted at school.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of eight parents by the conservative activist law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL).

The injunction goes into effect immediately but other issues raised in the lawsuit remain under consideration by the court.

“We are pleased Judge Remington issued this injunction that will require honesty when Madison Metropolitan School District staff interact with parents about critical matters impacting their child’s health and wellbeing. This is an important win for parental rights as the court considers this matter,” said Deputy Counsel Luke Berg of WILL.

The suit was filed for a group of Madison parents by WILL and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) in February 2020 for adopting and implementing policies that the suit said violate the rights of MMSD parents.

WILL said the MMSD policies under question, adopted in April 2018, enable children of any age to change their gender identity at school without parental notice or consent, and then direct school district employees to conceal and even deceive parents about the gender identity their son or daughter has adopted at school.

The circuit court’s injunction prevents district staff from lying to or deceiving parents if they directly ask about their child, including the name and pronouns their child is using at school.

WILL’s lawsuit also argues that the school district may not enable a gender identity transition at school without parental notice and consent, but the court declined to rule on that issue either way at this stage of the litigation.

WILL said the court’s ruling sends a clear warning message to the district that its policy is problematic, and that parents can expect transparency and honesty from teachers and district staff about their children.

WILL initially sent a letter to the school district on December 18, 2019, urging the school district to update and amend its above policies to avoid a lawsuit.

MMSD responded on January 31, saying it would not change the policies. WILL then filed a lawsuit in Dane County Circuit Court in February 2020.

The lawsuit made several requests of the court:

  • That it declare the district policy in violation of fundamental parental rights by allowing a child to change gender identity without parental consent and by allowing teachers and other staff to deceive parents;

  • That it prohibit the school district from facilitating a child’s change of gender identity without parental consent;

  • That it ban the school district from enabling children to transition to a different gender identity without parental notice or consent;

  • That it stop enabling children to transition to a different gender identity by selecting a new name and pronouns without parental notice or consent;

  • That it prohibit the school district from preventing teachers and other staff from communicating with parents about their child dealing with gender identity issues without first getting the child’s consent;

  • That the district staff stop actively deceiving parents, including by using different names for a child;

  • That the district retrain teachers and staff in accordance with the final decision of the court.

A big issue for the court, Judge Remington said, is the issue of the plaintiffs filing their complaint anonymously.

“Although the court understand (sic) why Plaintiffs desire to remain anonymous, anonymous plaintiffs effectively deny the Defendants and the Intervenors the ability to engage in discovery or to otherwise respond to the facts presented y the Plaintiffs in their motions as to the Plaintiffs themselves,” the judge wrote. “By remaining anonymous and by asking this court to make evidentiary findings regarding irreparable harm or an adequate remedy unfairly deprives the Defendants a meaningful opportunity to challenge Plaintiffs’ factual assertions.”


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