Last November, two sets of parents sued the Kettle Moraine School District in Wales, Wisconsin, over its official policy of keeping secrets from parents. More specifically, they objected to the district’s policy of honoring a student’s desire to go by a different name or gender pronouns than their given name or birth sex indicated, and to withhold such information from their parents.
Rather than admit its policy violated the parents’ constitutional right to direct the upbringing and education of their children, the district immediately moved to dismiss the parents’ lawsuit.
The good news, however, is that recently the judge overseeing the case denied the district’s motion, ruling the parents had the right to bring such a lawsuit and had properly alleged a claim the district must respond to.
Using the initials of the parents and their children in order to protect their anonymity, the story goes like this:
T.F and B.F., the parents of a 12-year-old daughter, learned from her in 2020 that she was struggling with her sexual identity as a girl. After seeing a mental health professional who merely “affirmed” that the daughter was really a boy, she informed her parents and her school that she wanted to be called by a male name with male pronouns.
T.F. and B.F. instructed their daughter’s school not to comply with their daughter’s request, but the school refused, citing a district policy that rejected the parents’ interest in the matter. T.F. and B.F. took their daughter out of the school, and within a few weeks her demeanor had changed, and she told her parents that the “affirmative care” she had received that encouraged her to transition to a boy had “really messed her up.”
The daughter is doing much better now and is attending a school in another school district.
The second set of parents, P.W. and S.W. have two children in the Kettle Moraine School District and are worried that the policy might one day be applied against them, violating their parental rights.
Both sets of parents want to see the policy changed.
Wisconsin Circuit Court Judge Michael P. Maxwell, in a five-page order, denied the school district’s motion to dismiss the parents’ lawsuit.
The school district asserted in its motion to dismiss that T.F. and B.F. could not sue the district because they took their daughter out of her school and placed her in another district. But Judge Maxwell ruled the parents were claiming they had already been harmed by the district policy, and removing their daughter did not remove the injury already suffered.
“Wisconsin courts recognize that parents have a right to make ‘decisions regarding the education and upbringing of their children,’ ‘free from government intervention,’” Judge Maxwell’s order stated.
“T.F. and B.F. allege that Kettle Moraine violated their right to make decisions regarding the upbringing of their daughter when they were told by Kettle Moraine that the school would not honor the parent’s request to not refer to their daughter by a male name or pronouns.
“This allegation, viewed in the light most favorable to T.F. and B.F., demonstrates a potential violation of their rights as parents to direct the upbringing of their child and is sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss on the issue of standing,” Maxwell concluded.
As to the second set of parents, P.W. and S.W., the school district argued that since their children were not grappling with sexual identity confusion, the policy did not come into play and therefore a parental rights claim did not exist.
Judge Maxwell disagreed, explaining that P.W. and S.W. are seeking only a “declaratory judgment” that the district policy violated their parental rights. An “injury” is not a necessary factor to such a legal claim.
“P.W. and S.W. need not wait for potential harm from Kettle Moraine’s policy to occur for their children before they are entitled to seek declaratory relief on whether the policy violates their parental rights,” the judge wrote.
“P.W. and S.W.[’s] allegation of an infringement on their fundamental right to parent their children is a risk of substantial injury to their interests and is sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss.”
The case will now proceed to trial unless a settlement of some kind is reached before then.
The parents in the lawsuit are represented by attorneys with the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty as well as Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). In a press release, ADF Senior Counsel Roger Brooks spoke about the importance of the parental rights issue in this case.
“Parents’ rights to direct the upbringing, education, and mental health treatment of their children is one of the most basic constitutional rights every parent holds dear, yet we are seeing more and more school districts across the country not only ignoring parents’ concerns but actively working against them,” Brooks said.
“For that reason, we are pleased that the court rejected the school district’s request to throw out this case and instead recognized that the argument of our clients ‘demonstrates a potential violation of their rights as parents to direct the upbringing of their child.’”
At a time when radical gender ideology is infecting all aspects of our culture, schools should be a safe place where children are shielded from such a dangerous agenda. Yet, that ideology has so taken over much of what passes for public education in this country that many school districts have decided they are entitled to overrule and displace parents’ decisions about their children’s sexuality.
The issue is particularly important for Christian parents, who believe, as Scripture explains, that God “created man in His own image … male and female He created them” (Genesis 5:2).
Hopefully, these Wisconsin parents will win a legal victory that forces the school district to recognize and prioritize parental rights. That’s the type of win we need not just in The Badger State, but in all 50 states.
The case is B_ and T_ F_ v. Kettle Moraine School District.
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