What role do parents play in deciding the medical and psychological care of their children? Do school officials have the right to supersede the authority and stated intent of parents when it comes to some of the most important decisions regarding their children?
Most Americans, and especially most parents, would agree that outside of extreme circumstances, parents should be the ones making crucial decisions about their children’s health and well-being.
But officials at Kettle Moraine School District in Wisconsin disagree. The school district sought to defy the wishes of parents regarding their children who struggle with gender dysphoria. So two sets of parents have filed suit against the district.
School districts should not override the prerogative of parents. Doing so only hurts children.
Let’s look at the details of this case.
Who are the students and parents suing Kettle Moraine School District?
Having a teen or pre-teen child struggle through anxiety and depression is a challenge that many families are burdened with. Often, it takes years of expert care and effort to find success in dealing with complex issues that impact mind, body, and spirit.
One of the Wisconsin couples in this case was striving to work through such a problem with their 12-year-old daughter, who was pushed by a counseling program to say she wanted to be a boy. Her parents, understanding her needs and long-term health best, wanted to give her more opportunities to work through her very real struggles before making any permanent changes, including her name or pronoun usage.
Unfortunately, the school that their daughter attended disregarded her parents’ wishes. School officials told the parents they would refer to their daughter by whatever name or pronoun she chose, without first informing them or getting their consent.
Treated as an afterthought or a problem, the parents were ultimately forced to withdraw their daughter from the school to protect her and preserve their God-given, constitutionally protected parental role.
In November 2021, after sending a letter outlining their concerns, which went unanswered, the parents had no choice but to file a lawsuit against the district. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys serve as co-counsel along with the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL). Additionally, another couple has joined the lawsuit against the district to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to their children.
In May 2021, attorneys for the parents sent a letter to Kettle Moraine School District addressing its policy that allows minor students to change their gender identity at school without parental consent and even over their parents’ objections.
In the letter, attorneys explained that the district’s policy disregards scientific evidence and the advice of professionals who label efforts to transition children “controversial.” Additionally, the letter notes that according to Wisconsin law, minor children cannot legally change their name, or change their name in school records, without parental consent. Yet that is exactly what the school officials attempted to do.
The school district policy takes life-altering decisions out of parents’ hands and places them with educators, who have no expertise whatsoever in these matters, and with the minors themselves, who, according to one court precedent, lack the “maturity, experience, and capacity for judgment required for making life’s difficult decisions.”
After receiving no response from the school, ADF and WILL filed a complaint against Kettle Moraine School District. The district sought to dismiss the case, but the court denied this request, recognizing that the argument of our clients “demonstrates a potential violation of their rights as parents to direct the upbringing of their child.”
What’s at stake?
The notion that a school could ignore the stated wishes of parents, particularly on controversial issues or on the health and well-being of a child, should concern parents everywhere.
Even experts in the psychiatric field argue that parents are an integral part of a child’s health decisions.
Dr. Stephen B. Levine, a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, stated that the social transition of children is an experimental therapy that exposes vulnerable children to dangerous and lifelong physical, social, and mental health risks. Dr. Levine notes in an expert affidavit that “[a]t a minimum, informed consent of parents is essential.”
Kettle Moraine School District’s policy disregards expertise like Dr. Levine’s—along with parents’ long-recognized rights and responsibilities—and instead takes life-altering decisions out of parents’ hands and places them with educators, who are not experts.
The school district and officials are substituting their own controversial ideology for basic biological reality—a harm that goes far beyond simple pronoun usage. Schools cannot even give students aspirin or basic medication without parental consent. Yet, in this case, officials are overruling the expressed desire of parents regarding the health of their child.
- May 2021: ADF and WILL sent a letter to Kettle Moraine School District demanding it change its student gender identity policy to require parental consent and acknowledge that it had violated the rights of the parents whose daughter was struggling with gender dysphoria.
- November 2021: After receiving no response from the school district, ADF and WILL filed a lawsuit in federal court for violations of parental rights and the Wisconsin Constitution.
- June 2022: The Waukesha County Circuit Court denied Kettle Moraine School District’s motion to dismiss the case, clearing the way for the lawsuit to proceed.
The bottom line
Parents have the right to direct the upbringing of their children. They know their children best, and they do not surrender their parental role when they send their children to school. Ignoring biological realities has consequences, and parents have a right to protect their minor children from those costs, which can be permanent.