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Judge throws out Wisconsin school district's pronoun policy

by WorldTribune Staff / 247 Real News October 5, 2023

In what is seen as a major victory for parental rights, a judge on Tuesday ruled that a Wisconsin school district can't allow students to use alternate names and pronouns without parental consent.

Waukesha County Circuit Judge Michael Maxwell ruled that the Kettle Moraine School District has been acting in violation of parents' constitutional rights. In 2021, two parents sued the school district over its policy, claiming that school leaders affirmed their daughter's gender transition against their wishes.

The student "began to question her gender" in December 2020 and requested to use a male name and pronouns, according to the lawsuit. The student's parents said they chose to seek professional support for their daughter, who ultimately decided against transitioning, but the Kettle Moraine School District "refused to respect their decision."

The judge's ruling Tuesday states that “social transitioning is a ‘powerful psychotherapeutic intervention' " often "preceded by a mental health professional," and school districts cannot “supplant a parent’s right to control the healthcare and medical decisions for their children.”

Judge Maxwell wrote in the 19-page ruling: “The School District could not administer medicine to a student without parental consent. The School District could not require or allow a student to participate in a sport without parental consent. Likewise, the School District cannot change the pronoun of a student without parental consent without impinging on a fundamental liberty interest of the parents.”

“This victory represents a major win for parental rights,” said Luke Berg, deputy counsel at the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty in Milwaukee which represented two families that filed lawsuit against the school district in 2021.

The first family pulled their 12-year-old daughter, A.F., out of middle school after the district said it would abide by her wishes to change her name and pronouns. The girl ultimately decided not to change genders after leaving the school.

The second family has two children at Kettle Moraine and “are concerned that the District would handle this process in the same way for their children as well if their children were to seek a gender transition.”

The district asked the judge to throw out the lawsuit, saying the cases were either no longer relevant or hypothetical.

Judge Maxwell disagreed, saying the “injury that they may suffer is not too far attenuated so as to make the injury ‘hypothetical.’”

“As mentioned by the expert affidavits, and as seen through A.F., this is an issue that can arise seemingly out of nowhere, and the School District has already shown by their actions that their policy is a willingness to go against parental wishes when handling the medical treatment of gender dysphoria in minors through affirming them by social transition,” the judge wrote.

The district also cited concerns that refusing to use a child’s preferred pronouns would violate Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in education, but Judge Maxwell found that “Title IX is not applicable.”

“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,” Berg said. “The decision should be a warning to the many districts across the country with similar policies to exclude parents from gender transitions at school.”

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