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? Those are the questions at the heart of a lawsuit two sets of Wisconsin parents have filed against the Kettle Moraine School District in Wisconsin.
So what happened?
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 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, desired to provide her more opportunities to work through her very real struggles before making any permanent changes, including her name or pronoun usage.
Unfortunately, the school disregarded the objections of her parents, and officials said they would refer to her by whatever name or pronoun she chose, without first informing her parents or getting their consent.
Treated as an afterthought or a problem, the parents were ultimately forced to withdraw their daughter from her school to protect her and preserve their God-given, constitutionally protected parental role.
On November 17, after sending a letter outlining their concerns, which went unanswered, the parents had no choice but to file a lawsuit against the district. ADF attorneys serve as co-counsel for the two families along with Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty. Additionally, another couple has joined the lawsuit against the district to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to their children.
Who’s the expert?
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 “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…”
The Kettle Moraine School District’s policy disregards expertise like Dr. Levine and 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.
“Primary rights in the upbringing of children”
The notion that a school could ignore the stated wishes of parents, particularly on controversial issues and the well-being of a child, should concern parents everywhere.
Attorneys for the parents (including an Alliance Defending Freedom attorney), in their letter to the district, quoted a relevant case in which school officials interfered with the parenting of a child: “It is not educators, but parents who have primary rights in the upbringing of children. School officials have only a secondary responsibility and must respect these rights.”
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 bottom line is that parents 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.
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Working with ADF attorneys, Lorie Smith’s case currently awaits a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, after a lower court ruled against her earlier this year.