Wisconsin Supreme Court allows ‘Don’t Tell Parents’ school policy to stand

by mcardinal

Lauren Moye, FISM News


The fight for parental rights against liberal ideologies suffered a setback in Wisconsin.

On Friday, the state’s highest court refused to place an injunction against an inclusion policy that prevents school officials to inform parents when a student seeks to change his or her preferred pronoun. The Wisconsin Supreme Court kicked the case back down to a lower court and also ruled that the parents in the case could not remain anonymous and their identities would be revealed to the attorneys for the school district.

The 4-3 decision, penned by Justice Brian Hagedon, claims that a lower court never ruled on the school’s LGBT policy that requires school staff to affirm a child’s transgender identity. Instead, the court was only asked to rule on an appeal of a lower court’s decision to protect parent anonymity.

“We are not aware of any procedure by which we could properly address that motion in this court absent an extraordinary exercise of our superintending authority, which the petitioners did not request,” the Wisconsin Supreme Court opinion reads, rejecting to place an injunction on a school district inclusion policy that parents argue harmed their daughter’s mental health.

However, the justices ruled that parents would be stripped of their anonymity going forward, a request parents made out of safety concerns. Until this point, their identities were kept secret even from the school district and their attorneys. They will still be allowed to keep pseudonyms in public documents, but the attorney for the parents suggested that his clients feared there would be a leak.

Justice Patience Roggensack hotly rejected the majority court’s opinion, calling it an “abdication of responsibility” when the court originally agreed to hear more than the appeal to end parent anonymity.

In her dissenting opinion she wrote, “Today, parents’ constitutional rights, the high burden of proof required to intervene in parents’ parenting decisions, and the presumption that parents act in the best interests of their children are all upended by the majority opinion’s silence.”

She further added that the parents’ identities were irrelevant when the case was brought forward on behalf of all students in the school district to protect parental rights. She wrote that by allowing the policy to stand, the school usurped all parents’ constitutional rights without a hearing, a court order, or proof that they were unfit to make decisions for their child.

“And finally, the majority’s non-decision, decision participates in MMSD’s ability to hide from parents what MMSD actually has been doing behind closed schoolhouse doors,” Roggensack stated.

The case revolves around the Kettle Moraine School District’s inclusion policy. In addition to automatically affirming a child’s alternative gender identity, the policy includes a “Don’t Tell the Parents” clause which prevents parents from playing an active role in guiding and protecting their child’s mental health. 

Parents opened the lawsuit based on claims that the Kettle Moraine School District’s inclusion policy harmed, not helped, the mental health of their 12-year-old daughter for these exact reasons. She was in a period of depression and extreme anxiety when she told school staff she wanted to identify as male. The school disregarded the parents’ right to guide mental health by affirming the child’s male self-identification against parents’ wishes.

The child ultimately decided to stay with her birth name and female pronouns. She told her parents the “rush to affirm” only “added to her confusion,” after her parents pulled her from the school.

The plaintiffs argued that the school district’s “Don’t Tell the Parents” clause leads to important mental health information being withheld from parents, leading to ineffective therapy sessions during a time the child needed help.

The state’s Supreme Court decision means the case will return to a lower district court where a decision to place a stay against the district’s policy is still pending. The policy will remain active until a decision is reached.