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Wisconsin Court Strikes Down School’s Secret Gender-Transition Plan

The court ruled that Kettle Moraine School District educators may not ‘socially transition’ children without parental consent.
Alliance Defending Freedom
ADF's clients (a mother and daughter) from the Kettle Moraine School District are seen on the edge of a lake

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 disagreed. The district sought to defy the wishes of parents regarding their children who struggle with gender dysphoria.

When school districts override the prerogative of parents, children are the ones who suffer.

Thankfully, after two sets of parents filed suit against the district, a Wisconsin court struck down Kettle Moraine’s policy and ruled that it violated parental rights. The court’s ruling protects both parental rights and children’s well-being in Wisconsin.

Parents have the right to direct the upbringing and mental-health care of their children.

Who are the students and parents who sued Kettle Moraine School District?

Having a teen or pre-teen child struggle through anxiety and depression is a challenge that many families face. Often, it takes years of expert care and effort to find success in dealing with complex issues that affect 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, a process sometimes referred to as a “social transition,” 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 stood up for the parents’ rights as co-counsel along with the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL). Additionally, another couple joined the lawsuit against the district to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to their children.

What was in the letter to Kettle Moraine School District?

Attorneys for the parents who were concerned about Kettle Moraine’s policy first sent a letter to the school district in May 2021. 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 noted 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’s policy took life-altering decisions out of parents’ hands and placed them with educators, who have no expertise whatsoever in these matters, and with the minors themselves, who, according to one court precedent—and common sense—lack the “maturity, experience, and capacity for judgment required for making life’s difficult decisions.”

After receiving no response to the letter, 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 demonstrated “a potential violation of their rights as parents to direct the upbringing of their child.”

What did the court say about the policy?

The Waukesha County Circuit Court ruled in October 2023 that the decision about whether to “socially transition” a child is a medical decision. Since parents have the right to make medical decisions for their children, the court ruled that Kettle Moraine’s policy to ignore parents’ wishes for their children infringed on parental rights.

“The School District could not administer medicine to a student without parental consent,” the court wrote in its opinion. “The School District could not require or allow a student to participate in a sport without parental consent. Likewise, the School District can not change the pronoun of a student without parental consent without impinging on a fundamental liberty interest of the parents.”

Case timeline

  • 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.
  • October 2023: The circuit court ruled that Kettle Moraine’s policy was invalid because it violated parental rights.