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Wisconsin parents sue school district for transitioning their daughter without their permission

The parents of a Wisconsin girl whose middle school allowed her to adopt a male name and pronouns without their knowledge or permission are taking legal action against the school district whom they accuse of violating their parental rights.

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Mia Ashton Montreal QC
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The parents of a Wisconsin girl whose middle school allowed her to adopt a male name and pronouns without their knowledge or permission are taking legal action against the Kettle Moraine School District whom they accuse of violating their parental rights.

According to documents obtained in a public records request made by Parents Defending Education, and shared on Twitter by parent rights advocate Scarlett Johnson, staff aided the social transition of the Grade 6 girl after taking advice from the child’s affirming therapist, but the girl’s parents strongly disagreed with this approach and immediately pulled their daughter from the school. After being removed from the affirming environment, the girl has since desisted and no longer believes herself to be a member of the opposite sex.

In a letter to the school board president from the family’s legal team, the full story is outlined. The 12-year-old girl began to experience “rapid-onset gender dysphoria” as well as significant anxiety and depression, which led to her being temporarily withdrawn from the Kettle Moraine Middle School for treatment at a mental health center. However, at the center, she received only affirmation and returned to school requesting to go by a male name and pronouns. Her parents, based on their knowledge of their daughter and their own extensive research into the issue, did not feel that transitioning was in her best interests, but the school refused to honor their request and instead went ahead with the social transition.

The lawsuit filed in Nov 2021 states that the action “seeks to vindicate one of the most fundamental constitutional rights every parent holds dear: the right to raise their children.”

“The Kettle Moraine School District has violated this foundational right by undermining and overriding parents’ decision-making role with respect to a major and controversial issue,” continues the statement. “Specifically, the District has adopted a policy to allow, facilitate, and ‘affirm’ a minor student’s request to transition to a different gender identity at school - without parental consent and even over the parents’ objection.”

The documents obtained show that, at the time of the child’s desire to transition, the school had sought outside legal advice and had “reviewed current rulings and direction from mental health experts,” which led to them making the decision to enable the child’s change of name and pronouns, despite the obvious mental health issues that she was dealing with. 

“We do have a practice of using a nickname when requested by the child, and that has been in place for decades,” reads a piece of internal correspondence from the superintendent at the time. “The concern is if we refuse to allow a child to request a nickname because of the transgender issue, we are discriminating against a protected class.”

A further email shows the child being celebrated for coming out as transgender, which is a process known as “love-bombing.” 

“I want you to know how much I respect and admire you,” says the unknown person to the mentally-distressed Grade 6 girl. “You are so brave and I am proud of you for being strong enough to be YOU!”

“YOU are an amazing person!,” continues the email. “And you will be happier now that you can honor who you are. It might not be easy, but it is worth it! Please let me know if I can ever help in any way, even if you just need someone to listen. I am here for you.”

“Transitioning to a different gender identity during childhood is a major and controversial decision,” reads the letter to the school president from the family’s legal team. “Multiple studies have found that the vast majority of children (80-90%) who experience gender dysphoria ultimately ‘desist’, finding comfort with their biological sex; that is, unless they transition.”

The letter goes on to call social transition “self-reinforcing” and an intervention that sets “children down a path with life-long consequences.”

It quotes Dr. Stephen Levine, a prominent expert in the field of gender medicine, as saying childhood transitions are “an experimental procedure that has a high likelihood of changing the life path of the child, with highly unpredictable effects on mental and physical health, suicidality, and life expectancy.” 

The letter also contains a quote from Dr. Kenneth Zucker, another expert with decades of experience in the field, who says that “parents who support, implement, or encourage a gender social transition (and clinicians who recommend one) are implementing a psychosocial treatment that will increase the odds of long-term persistence.”

“The Kettle Moraine School District’s policy disregards these professionals and instead takes this life-altering decision out of parents’ hands and places it with educators, who have no expertise whatsoever in these matters, and with minors, who lack the maturity, experience and capacity for judgment required for making life’s difficult decisions,” the letter states.

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