When parents send their child to school, it is reasonable to assume their wishes will be respected. But that is not always the case. Take a recent case from Wisconsin as an example.
In the Kettle Moraine School District, the parents of a 12-year-old girl who was struggling with anxiety, depression, and her identity asked school officials to give their daughter the time and space to work through her struggles. But the officials disregarded the parents’ wishes and insisted they would refer to her by a male name and pronouns contrary to her parents’ express instructions. Her parents were forced to withdraw her from the school to protect her mental health. In her new school, with space to work through all that she was feeling, this girl is thriving.
ADF represented this family alongside the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, and on Oct. 3, 2023, the Waukesha County Circuit Court ruled in the family’s favor, saying the school’s policy violated parental rights and acknowledging the parents’ constitutional right to raise their daughter as they saw fit.
Cases like these are why Alliance Defending Freedom exists: to advance the God-given right to live and speak the truth. That truth includes the fundamental rights of parents to raise their children without government interference. Children are born to parents, and it is parents—not the government—who have the right and duty to raise them.
While this case represents a significant victory for parental rights, it also reflects the troubling reality that these fundamental rights need greater protection across the United States—despite their broad support among the American people. Spanning six states and polling 1,800 likely voters, a parental rights survey commissioned by ADF yielded results highlighting the importance of parental involvement in education and health-care decisions and clear support for parental rights.
Among the respondents, 76 percent said they believe in the fundamental right of parents to review the content their children are exposed to concerning race, sex, and religion. Furthermore, most respondents said parents deserve control over the manner and timing of exposure to such topics for their children.
Support was even more robust regarding childhood development and mental-health decisions. A substantial majority of respondents agreed that while schools play an important role in childhood development, parents should be considered their children’s ultimate caretakers. Indeed, 81 percent said they believe that parents should have the final say in how to help their child if their child is experiencing gender dysphoria.
At the same time, 76 percent agreed that the government has no place bypassing parents when making permanent, life-altering health-care decisions for children. When respondents were informed that some states don’t even require parental consent for minors to receive sex-change surgeries, 68 percent said they would support a law requiring parental consent.
These results align with the outcomes of other recent polls, such as a Parents Defending Education poll from March 2023 and a Fox News poll from October 2022, underscoring a broad consensus: the protection of children is best left in the hands of loving parents. Across America, people are concerned about government overreach into these intensely personal and private education and health decisions. Parents know their children best, and their right to direct their children’s upbringing must be protected from overreaching government officials.
ADF is committed to protecting parental rights not only because it is a matter of constitutional necessity but also because we are committed to protecting new generations of young Americans who need their parents. The family is the foundational building block of healthy, thriving societies, and strong families start with strong parents. Parents have the right and the duty to direct the upbringing and education of their children, and we will continue to advocate for families to ensure these fundamental freedoms are protected.