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Wisconsin School District Tried to Lie to Parents

Children who struggle with gender dysphoria need their parents' support.
Alliance Defending Freedom
Madison Metropolitan School District in Wisconsin has adopted a policy for all of its schools based on controversial gender ideology.

Do you remember when being an involved parent was universally recognized as a good thing?

In the past year, we’ve seen parents expressing concern over what is going on in their children’s schools—both online and in person at their local school board meetings.

They’re just doing their jobs as parents. But oftentimes, school boards treat involved parents as a problem.

And they’re not the only ones. Some in the media and even a few government officials have made statements characterizing parents showing up to school board meetings as a negative thing. Former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe even said, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

Parents have a right to seek information about what’s going on at their children’s schools. And in many school districts, there are serious reasons for parents to be concerned.

Take the Madison Metropolitan School District in Wisconsin as an example.

The school district implemented a policy that requires staff to address children with transgender names and pronouns at the child’s request, without their parents’ knowledge or consent—and, in certain cases, behind parents’ backs.

Read more about this case below.

Who are the parents of Madison Metropolitan School District?

Parents in the Madison, Wisconsin, area have filed a lawsuit against their local school district.

In 2018, Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) adopted a policy for all of its schools based on controversial gender ideology. The policy actually said its intention was to “disrupt the gender binary”—something you’d expect to see from a left-wing activist group and not a school district tasked with educating children.

This policy requires teachers to assist and encourage children of any age in the adoption of transgender identities without parental notice or consent.

But even worse, it requires teachers to actively deceive parents about their child’s gender identity disorder by using the child’s “transgender” name at school, but using the child’s true name in front of his or her parents.

Doe v. Madison Metropolitan School District

A Madison Metropolitan School District policy tells teachers and other employees they address children using transgender names and pronouns at the child’s request, without parental consent—without even telling parents this is being done to their child daily at school.

Experts, such as psychiatrist Dr. Stephen Levine, have noted that ushering gender dysphoric children toward “social transition” to the opposite sex is an experimental therapy that exposes these vulnerable children to more mental health risks. More than that, studies show that 80-90 percent of young children with gender dysphoria ultimately grow up to identify with their biological sex—so long as the adults around them don’t reinforce a transgender identity.

But this policy of the Madison Metropolitan School District goes beyond using experimental gender theory to the detriment of children. It does so behind the backs of caring parents.

The policy assumes that parents are the problem instead of recognizing that parents are there to help their children. Outside of extreme cases, most parents know what’s best for their children. They must be informed about anything their child is going through at school so that they can help.

The school district’s policy is a violation of parental rights. That’s why parents are challenging the policy in court.

What's at stake?

The outcome of Doe v. Madison Metropolitan School District will have implications for protecting parental rights. The school district’s policy violates parental rights by requiring teachers and school officials to be dishonest with parents about what their children are experiencing.

Parents have a fundamental right to direct the upbringing of their children—including their children’s education. Any policy that attempts to go around or negate that right is unjust and bad for society.

Outside of extreme cases of abuse and neglect, parents must be seen as having their children’s best interest at heart. Parents are best positioned to look out for their children’s well-being—not government institutions. To care for and protect the next generation of citizens, we must protect the rights of their parents to raise them.

Case timeline

  • February 2020: The Wisconsin Institute of Law and Liberty (WILL) and Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on behalf of parents on February 18, 2020, then asked for a temporary halt to the Madison Metropolitan School District’s policy on February 19, 2020.
  • September 2020: A state court stopped the school district from enacting its policy that lies to parents about the gender identity their child may have adopted at school. The court’s injunction is in effect while the lawsuit against the district is on appeal.
  • July 2022: The Wisconsin Supreme Court resolved an outstanding procedural matter and directed the lower state court to consider the merits of the parents' claims.
  • November 2022: The lower court ignored the instruction of the State Supreme Court and instead reversed its own earlier ruling to hold that the parents lacked "standing" to challenge the policy even though their children are put at risk by the policy.
  • January 2023: Attorneys with WILL and ADF filed their opening brief with the Wisconsin Court of Appeals. The parents are appealing their case after a lower court dismissed their lawsuit.

The bottom line

Parents know what is best for their children, not school employees and administrators.

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