Parents Defending Education sent a public records request to Kettle Moraine School District and obtained emails and documents of district staff attempting to help a sixth grade student transition against the will of the child’s parent. The previous superintendent Patricia Deklotz mentioned in an email to other staff dated January 20, 2021, that the student’s parent disagreed with the child transitioning to another gender and using a new name. However, the superintendent then explained:
We had permission to speak with the therapist and we were told to recognize the student’s request. In addition we sought outside legal advice and reviewed current rulings and direction from mental health experts.Superintendent Patricia Deklotz
The superintendent then discussed in the email that someone “is getting a legal opinion on where a parent’s rights stop and a child’s rights begin.” The superintendent continued to explain:
We do have a practice of using a nickname when requested by the child, and that has been in place for decades. 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.
PDE redacted the following emails to protect the identities of the child, parent, and staff involved.
The principal of the child’s school also explained in an email dated January 20, 2021, to other staff that he and others had a discussion with the parent about the child. He explained:
We had a conversation with [the child’s parent] this afternoon, sharing our plan to honor the child’s wishes and refer to them as [preferred name] as they return to our school. We did this after careful consideration based on legal and mental health care issues surrounding this issue and this case.School principal
The principal then discussed the parent’s intent to move the child to another school.
In an email exchange with the student, a “talent development coordinator” from the district explained that she was “excited” and “proud” of the student for “being strong enough to be YOU!” The talent development coordinator also told the student that “you will be happier now that you can honor who you are.”
After the child explained that she will no longer be attending the school, the talent development coordinator explained that she was “always here to support” the child. The talent development coordinator continued to explain: “Write down my email and email me whenever you need or want to. I would love to keep in touch!”
The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty and Alliance Defending Freedom wrote a letter on the case and explained that after leaving the school the child’s “demeanor began to change.” The child expressed that “affirmative care really messed me up.” The child’s parents along with other parents then filed a lawsuit against Kettle Moraine School District in November 17, 2021. The lawsuit states:
This 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. 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 lawsuit then states that this policy forced the plaintiffs “to withdraw their daughter from the District to protect her and to preserve their parental role.” The request for relief in the lawsuit includes to “declare that the Kettle Moraine School District’s policy to enable and ‘affirm’ a minor student’s transition to a different gender identity at school without parental consent violates parents’ constitutional rights.” The request for relief also includes to “enjoin the Kettle Moraine School District from allowing or requiring staff to refer to students using a name or pronouns at odds with their biological sex, while at school, without parental consent.”
Kettle Moraine School District attempted to have the lawsuit dismissed because one set of plaintiffs “are no longer in the district” and the other set of plaintiffs “do not currently have a child for which the policy would have a current application,” according to a decision by a judge on June 1, 2022. The decision continues to explain: “Kettle Moraine argues that there exists no justiciable controversy between the parties as the Plaintiffs lack standing to bring their claims, their claims are not ripe for determination, and the claims are moot.”
However, the judge explained in the decision that the allegation by the child’s parents “demonstrates a potential violation of their rights as parents to direct the upbringing of their child and is sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss on the issue of standing.” The judge continued to explain: “When viewed in the light most favorable to [the parents], the claim of at least nominal damages for a potential violation of their rights as parents to direct the upbringing of their child and is sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss on the issue of mootness.” The judge then denied the school district’s motion to dismiss the case.