Skip to content

What a Parental Rights Victory in Wisconsin Can Teach the Rest of Our Country

As parents, we know what’s best for our kids, and this story from Wisconsin gives us great hope.
Kate Anderson
Written by
ADF's clients (a mother and daughter) from the Kettle Moraine School District are seen on the edge of a lake

This is a story of a mother who loved her child and was willing to fight for what was best for her.

This is the story of a parent who didn’t just blindly accept the advice of so-called “experts” to push her adolescent daughter down a dangerous path. Rather, she paused to consider the root issues causing her daughter to suddenly feel like she was born in the wrong body. When everyone around her was racing to affirm her daughter’s new-found feelings, this mother slowed down to ask the hard questions.

This is, ultimately, the story of one mother’s hope and courage to do the right thing—albeit the scary thing—and how her daughter is doing well because of it.

In the Kettle Moraine School District in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Tammy knew her bright, outgoing daughter Autumn was struggling after COVID policies temporarily shut down her social outlets. She took Autumn to mental health counseling at her request, but rather than focus on Autumn’s feelings of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem, the mental health counselors told Tammy that her daughter was a boy. She was told that if Autumn committed suicide as a result of Tammy’s refusal to refer to her daughter as a boy, it would be her fault.

Tammy could not accept these terms. She knew her daughter better than any mental health counselor or school official could. At the start of the school year, she courageously approached the school to tell them that she wanted to choose the best approach for her daughter, and that meant that she wanted the school to use her daughter’s real name and female pronouns. But the school absolutely refused.

Well, Tammy did some research and found that she had the law on her side. The Wisconsin state constitution affirms that parents have the right to direct the upbringing of their children. Parents, not the government, make decisions about their child’s education, about their upbringing, about their medical care. What are two semesters per year compared to 18 years of loving stewardship and caregiving?

The parents of the now 13-year-old Autumn knew better, and the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty and Alliance Defending Freedom (where I serve as senior counsel) came alongside this family by filing a lawsuit against the school district for its policy that usurped parental rights. Another family saw that the same thing could happen to their child and joined in the lawsuit.

When schools cast aside biological reality in favor of gender identity ideology, it’s children who are hurt the most. It is well established that addressing children using opposite-sex names and pronouns is a major psychotherapeutic intervention that greatly decreases the likelihood that the child will become comfortable with his or her real sex. Research relied upon by the American Psychological Association shows that 80-90% of young children who experience gender dysphoria ultimately grow comfortable with their biological sex and stop experiencing gender dysphoria as they age—as long as no one interferes with the natural course of puberty. Conversely, children who are pushed to live as the opposite sex are placed on a path toward suffering debilitating mental and physical consequences.

Thankfully, a Wisconsin court recently affirmed Tammy’s fundamental right to direct the education, upbringing and care of her daughter. In its ruling, the Waukesha County Circuit Court wrote, “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.”

Because of Tammy’s courage and willingness to do the right, hard thing for her daughter, the bond between her and Autumn is tighter than ever, and because of her mother’s care, this young woman is accepting, and being accepted, for who she really is. Parents need to be aware. The Kettle Moraine School District’s disregard for parental rights is not an isolated incident; it’s a growing trend across the country. Lawmakers also must take notice of the way school districts are acting as the final authority in a child’s life by pushing a dangerous, life-altering ideology on vulnerable kids—against the wishes of parents.

As parents, we know what’s best for our kids, and this story from Wisconsin gives us great hope. It can be terrifying to defy what government officials and institutional “experts” are telling us to do (or even your own child!), but seeing your daughter live her best life as the beautiful person God created makes it all worth it.

Kate Anderson
Kate Anderson
Senior Counsel, Director of Center for Parental Rights
Kate Anderson serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where she is the director of the Center for Parental Rights.