Parents sue Madison schools over transgender policy

Published: Feb. 17, 2020 at 7:01 PM CST
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A group of parents filed a lawsuit Tuesday alleging the Madison school district’s transgender policy is unconstitutional because it prohibits teachers and staff from informing parents that their children want to switch sexes.

Conservative law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty filed the lawsuit on the parents’ behalf in Dane County Circuit Court.

According to the lawsuit, Madison schools adopted a policy in 2018 that states a person’s gender identity can be male, female, a blend of both or neither and is determined by person’s sense of self. The policy states that the district is committed to affirming each student’s self-designated gender identity and the district will strive to “disrupt the gender binary” with books and lessons stating that everyone has the right to choose their gender.

Even though the district requires parental consent before students can change their name and gender in official district records, the policy allows students to pick new names and pronouns they can use at school regardless of whether they have a parent’s permission. All teachers and district staff must refer to students by their chosen names and pronouns even though the names aren’t official in district systems.

The policy also prohibits teachers and staff from revealing a student’s gender identity, including any new names or pronouns, used at school to parents or guardians, according to the lawsuit. The policy goes on to state that staff must use the child’s legal name with family.

The parents argue the policy violates the state constitution’s due process clause, which protects parents’ right to raise their children according to the parents beliefs.

District spokesman Tim LeMonds declined to comment until the district has reviewed the lawsuit.

If a student wants to change gender identity at school, teachers must fill out a form listing the student’s chosen name and pronouns and answer whether the student uses that name at home.

The form states that parental consent is needed to change name and gender in official records but students can use their chosen name and pronouns without parental permission. The form states that any interviews with the student are confidential in defiance of a state law that gives parents access to all education records, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit contends that keeping parents in the dark about their children’s sexuality interferes with parents’ right to guide their children through life-altering decisions and provide professional help their children may urgently need.

“There is no compelling government interest in keeping secret from parents that their child is dealing with gender dysphoria,” the lawsuit says.

The parents also argue that the policy violates the state constitution’s religious freedom guarantee.

The parents maintain they believe that God intended humans to be two sexes. The district policy interferes with their right to seek treatment for their children to stop a gender transition and hiding a student’s struggles with gender interferes with their right to guide their children in accordance with their religious beliefs.