Judge Bars Wisconsin School District From Hiding Students’ Gender Identities From Parents

A court in Wisconsin ruled this week officials with the Madison Metropolitan School District cannot intentionally hide from parents information regarding their children’s chosen gender identities in schools.

Dane County Court Judge Frank Remington issued a temporary injunction against a portion of the MMSD guidance in question, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

Remington’s decision comes months after a lawsuit was filed by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty and the Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of an anonymous group of parents whose children are enrolled in MMSD schools.

In February, the parents disputed a guidance put forward by the district in April 2018 advising faculty and staff members to assist students in their gender transitions at school without notifying their parents.

WILL argued at the time such an informal guidance — while not an officially adopted district policy — encourages employees to actively “deceive” parents about their children’s gender-based decisions.

The memo, “Guidance & Policies to Support Transgender, Non-binary & Gender-Expansive Students,” is a violation of parental rights as well as religious liberty rights, according to the plaintiffs.

In his decision to issue a temporary injunction, Remington made clear his ruling is not holistic. His injunction “does not create an affirmative obligation to disclose information if that obligation does not already exist at law.” Rather, it requires MMSD faculty and staff members to disclose information about students’ gender identities if parents raise the matter.

Luke Berg, deputy counsel for WILL, described Remington’s decision as “an important win for parental rights.”

“We are pleased Judge Remington issued this injunction that will require honesty when Madison Metropolitan School District staff interact with parents about critical matters impacting their child’s health and wellbeing,” he added.

Berg did, however, admit the injunction does not go far enough.

“This injunction doesn’t require staff to reach out and volunteer the information to parents and notify parents,” he explained. “Our argument is you can’t facilitate a transition without parental consent.”

It’s worth noting that, although the injunction has been put in place, leaders within the MMSD have rejected the plaintiffs’ premise.

Tim LeMonds, a spokesperson for the district, reiterated the guidance is not official MMSD policy and said its faculty and staff prioritize “working in collaboration with families to support our students and it is always our preferred method of support.”

“MMSD will continue to prioritize the safety and wellbeing of every individual student to the best of our ability,” he continued.

At the same time, WILL, which initially represented 14 parents but that number has since dropped to six, is trying to make the case that its clients should remain anonymous. In May, Remington ordered the parents’ names be disclosed to MMSD attorneys.

WILL has asked the Wisconsin Court of Appeals to allow the case to proceed without releasing the plaintiffs’ names.

“The inescapable effect of being anonymous, the court additionally finds that the Plaintiffs have not adequately demonstrated irreparable harm to them,” Remington’s order stated. “The Plaintiffs demand preliminary relief that would otherwise convert the case to a de facto class action, rather than a plea for relief by particular, albeit anonymous, parents. By not identifying themselves, Plaintiffs have not provided facts sufficient for this court to find irreparable harm or to find that they do not have an adequate remedy as to themselves.”