A new policy in the Madison Metropolitan School District that would allow staff to use transgender students’ preferred names and pronouns without consulting parents has been halted amid a temporary injunction after facing a conservative advocacy group’s legal challenges.
The document, created in 2018, would permit MMSD staff to call transgender students by their preferred name, pronouns and to withhold this information from the student’s parents. The policy would also enable staff to assist in facilitating a social gender transition for their students.
However, these sections of the guidance are facing scrutiny — and a lawsuit. In February, 14 anonymous parents sued MMSD over the guidelines. Eight parents have since withdrawn from the lawsuit, the Cap Times reported.
The parents sued on behalf of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a conservative advocacy group, and declared it unconstitutional for them to not be informed about their children’s gender identity and resulting changes, according to Channel 3000.
A Dane County judge ruled that MMSD cannot enforce the guidance “in any manner that allows or requires District staff to conceal information or to answer untruthfully in response to any question that parents ask about their child at school, including information about the name and pronouns being used to address their child at school.”
MMSD spokesperson Tim LeMonds said the guidance serves as a suggestion rather than an enforceable policy.
“The District has not and does not construe or interpret the guidance to support or encourage MMSD officials to misrepresent or conceal anything from parents, and the Court did not otherwise require MMSD to change its existing approach,” LeMonds said in a statement.
The complaint that sparked the lawsuit noted that it would be unconstitutional for schools to assist in social gender transitions, according to the Cap Times.
“The policy enables children, of any age, to socially transition to a different gender identity at school without parental notice or consent, requires all teachers to enable this transition, and then prohibits teachers from communicating with parents about this potentially life-altering choice without the child’s consent,” the complaint stated.
Many fear that the absence of such guidance puts transgender students at risk.
“We know that family acceptance continues to have a profound impact on the physical and mental health outcomes of our LGBTQ+ young people,” said interim general counsel Sherry Terrell Web said in a Jan. 31 letter on behalf of MMSD. “In MMSD, with the permission of our students, we will strive to include families along the journey to support their LGBTQ+ youth.”
Brain Juchems, the co-director of GSAFE, an organization dedicated to helping Wisconsin schools support LGBTQ+ students, also offered his support for the guidance.
“The Madison school district isn’t hiding or trying to prevent families from being involved in the conversation,” Juchems said in an interview with Channel 3000. “What the guidance does is give districts tools to help students be agents in their own coming out stories.”
Despite Tuesday’s injunction, no final ruling has been made on the case.