For over thirty years, Wisconsin has been at the forefront of educational innovation with its school choice program, providing low-income parents the opportunity to select the best educational environment for their children, which includes both secular and religious private schools.
Our Parental Choice Program began in 1990 with just the City of Milwaukee, but has expanded to include Milwaukee County, and under the Walker administration, a Racine choice program and a statewide choice program were launched. Currently, about 52,000 students are enrolled in private schools using a state-issued voucher.
As of last week, this successful program is facing a challenge in the form of a lawsuit filed by the Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC, a leftist group publicly stating it is out to destroy Wisconsin’s choice program. This lawsuit was filed directly to the state Supreme Court and asks the court to shut down the choice program before the 2024-2025 school year. It is disheartening to witness such a baseless, politically motivated attack on a program that has empowered families and improved educational outcomes for tens of thousands of children.
The essence of the lawsuit revolves around the claim that the school choice program diverts funds from public schools, crippling their ability to provide quality education, which is a fundamentally flawed assertion. Currently, statewide public school districts receive, on average, almost $15,000 per student of taxpayer money. Even with the increase in vouchers that the governor signed into law in the new budget, vouchers for K-8 students are just 64% of that amount, while vouchers for high school students are now 81% of the public school per-student cost. What this means is the voucher programs are saving taxpayers money.
Importantly, recent research done by School Choice Wisconsin shows that the choice programs are giving taxpayers a very good return, with voucher students consistently outperforming their public school peers on core subjects such as reading and math, as well as on standardized tests such as the ACT and the state’s Knowledge and Concepts Exam.
This lawsuit fails to acknowledge the diverse needs of Wisconsin’s students. Every child is unique, with individual learning styles, interests, and aspirations. Additionally, families differ in their values. Many families today, especially Christians, are realizing public schools are foisting values on their children that are antithetical to their family values. A one-size-fits-all approach to education simply does not suffice. School choice ensures that parents can tailor their child’s education to match what they want for their children, fostering an environment where students can thrive academically and personally, and also for many, spiritually.
While the lawsuit does not directly raise concerns about the participation of religious schools in Wisconsin’s school choice program, it is important to know that this issue was settled by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1998 in a case that challenged the original Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. The high court determined including religious private schools in the choice program did not violate either the US Constitution’s First Amendment or Wisconsin’s constitution. Subsequent and quite recent US Supreme Court decisions have also upheld the inclusion of religious private schools in such programs.
The bottom line is we have people in our state who despise the choice program; they have tried to discredit it and undo it for years. Now, with our state Supreme Court leaning liberal, they believe the time is right to aggressively use the courts to accomplish their goal. Fortunately, Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty is ready to fully defend this educational option on behalf of the tens of thousands of students and families who are flourishing because of this program. We call on Christians to pray for the justices and their decision and for the attorneys who will be involved with this high-stakes case.
The Daily Wire reports that a Wisconsin school district is facing a lawsuit from a parent who claims that a teacher announced his gender “transition” to students, including those in elementary school, without notifying parents.
On Monday, Leah Buchman, a mother within the Eau Claire Area School District (ECASD), lodged a formal complaint accusing the district of violating open records law and neglecting to inform parents about the teacher’s gender transition announcement.
According to the complaint, on June 5th, all orchestra students at Northstar Middle School were required to meet in the orchestra room along with their orchestra teacher and school counselor, Jacob Puccio, and the district’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) director, Dang Yang. During this gathering, the middle school students were informed that their orchestra teacher, Mr. Puccio, would be undergoing a “gender transition.”
Further, music students at three elementary schools and one high school in the district were purportedly read a scripted statement regarding the teacher’s gender transition.
According to the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), the statement was curated by ECASD with the intention to “ensure that students received information in a particular way.” Additionally, WILL asserts that parents still remain unaware of the exact contents of what was read to the students and are seeking clarification on the specifics.
Buchman immediately requested a copy of the scripted statement but was denied access to it. An attorney representing the school district stated that the document could not be released at that time due to an ongoing investigation into whether any school employee had acted inappropriately during the June 5th announcement.
Following the school’s refusal to provide the statement, Buchman proceeded to file her lawsuit with the assistance of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL).
“All I am asking is for the school district to provide what was told to my children and their peers in the classroom. As a parent, it’s my responsibility to help my kids understand all that life throws their way, and I do not understand why it has taken the school district so long to update parents,” said Buchman.
“It’s ridiculous for a school district to refuse to produce a statement that was read out loud to dozens of minor students in several district classrooms. What was told to these kids should be readily accessible to parents,” said WILL attorney Cory Brewer.
Other Wisconsin schools have been under fire for undermining parents’ rights in an attempt to indoctrinate students with radical LGBTQ+ ideology.
The Eau Claire Area School District (ECASD) was sued for hosting gender identity trainings that instruct teachers and school staff on how to hide students’ gender transitions from parents. America First Legal (AFL) and the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) filed the lawsuit on behalf of several parents, arguing that the district’s policies violate their freedom of religion and their parental rights.
Similarly, last November a group of Wisconsin parents sued the Kettle Moraine School District (KMSD) for a policy that allows minor students to “transition genders” at school, even despite their parents’ objection.
In a third case, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) filed a lawsuit in 2020 in Dane County Circuit Court against the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) for its policies that allow children to change their gender identity at school without parental notice or consent. The policy also instructs district staff to hide information about students’ gender identity from parents.
Cases of Wisconsin schools violating parental rights have become far too common– and these are only the instances that have been reported. Hopefully, these lawsuits are successful and send a clear message to Wisconsin schools: teachers have no right to parent students or push a radical agenda without parents’ consent.
Last Thursday, Dane County Circuit Judge Diane Schlipper heard oral arguments in the case that challenges the enforceability of Wisconsin’s pre-Roe law that prohibits most abortions. Schlipper heard oral arguments for over 90 minutes, but has not yet released a decision.
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul filed the lawsuit within days of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade in June last year. The defendants in the lawsuit are the district attorneys from Sheboygan, Milwaukee, and Madison—all places where surgical or induced abortions were being performed before Roe was overturned.
The defendants argued the judge should dismiss the lawsuit because Kaul lacks the legal standing to bring the lawsuit, as the ban does not affect his ability to carry out his duties as attorney general.
Attorney Matthew Thome argued that modern-day laws that restrict abortion, such as the 1985 post-viability restriction, can act in “harmony” with the ban. Thome also implored the judge to “get back to principles,” noting that the legislature decided not to repeal the abortion ban,and Schlipper should respect the rightful place of the legislature to enact these laws instead of imposing her own opinion.
The case will undoubtedly end up before the state Supreme Court, which by August, will have a 4-3 liberal majority.
Until then, innocent lives are being saved every day while the abortion prohibition is in place. Please pray that everyone involved in this case recognizes the humanity of the unborn and rules according to God’s will.
Last summer, Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) and the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a lawsuit against Kettle Moraine School District (KMSD) for its gender identity policy that allows children to “change” their gender identity at school without parental consent. The policy also prohibits district employees from notifying parents of their child’s “transition” and even instructs staff to override a parent’s objection. In this case, at least one parent called and asked the school to call a daughter by her given feminine name and to use only feminine pronouns. The school refused.
Now, WILL and ADF have brought on two experts in support of summary judgment in this case. The experts specialize in gender dysphoria, asserting that school personnel socially transitioning a minor as is happening in this school district violates widely accepted mental health principles and practice.
Dr. Erica E. Anderson is a transgender clinical psychologist from Berkeley, California. Over the last 40 years, she has worked with hundreds of children and young adults struggling with their gender identity. She has also been a board member for the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) and served as the President of USPATH (the United States arm of WPATH).
Dr. Anderson’s affidavit states, “A school policy that involves school adult personnel in socially transitioning a child or adolescent without the consent of parents or over their objection violates widely accepted mental health principles and practice.”
The second expert, Dr. Stephen Levine, is a psychiatrist and professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. He helped develop the 5th version of the WPATH guidelines and served as the court-appointed expert in the first major case to reach a federal court of appeals pertaining to surgery for transgender prisoners.
Dr. Levine’s publications include “Transitioning back to maleness” (2018), “Ethical Concerns About Emerging Treatment Paradigms for Gender Dysphoria” (2017), “Meanings and political implications of ‘psychopathology’ in a gender identity clinic: A report of 10 cases” (2009), “The standards of care for gender identity disorders” (1998), among many others.
If the Waukesha County judge grants summary judgment, then the parents win. This would be incredibly encouraging and right. As the parents’ attorneys argue, not only is the school’s policy harmful to children, it’s an unconstitutional violation of the parents’ rights. School districts statewide and across the country should be watching this case closely.
The Wisconsin Constitution protects the “inherent right” of parents to “direct the upbringing and education of children under their control.” For the sake of children’s safety and well-being, parents must be the primary decision-makers when it comes to their children’s upbringing, education, and mental health. No school has the right to override parents in any way, especially when it comes to something as personal and important as gender.
A hearing for this case is scheduled for April 19th, and a ruling is expected in the late spring or summer. Hopefully, Dr. Levine and Dr. Anderson guide the Court to a decision that will protect children and parent’s rights.
Stories of school districts violating parents’ rights with transgender policies continue to emerge, and WFA is helping to fight back.
The Linn-Mar Community School District, located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, implemented a policy earlier this year barring the district from informing parents of a student’s transgender status unless the student provides authorization. Under the policy, students can also decide whether or not their parents attend meetings with a school counselor to receive support and implement a “Gender Support Plan.”
The Eighth Circuit Court will hear oral arguments for this case in February 2023. To defend parental rights, WFA has signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief, along with the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), the Baptist Convention of Iowa (BCI), and other organizations to defend parental rights.
The brief says that the Parental Preclusion Policy “permits students and schools to determine the name and pronouns that a student will use at school, to decide the gender of those that the child will sleep with on school trips, to select which restroom and locker room to use at school, and to determine which gender sports teams to join, all without parental notification or consent.”
By hiding pertinent information about students, the school district violates parents’ right to “direct the care and education of their children,” and violates their due process protections.
The U.S. Constitution “protects parental interests as fundamental,” reads the brief. “This policy’s underlying rationales – that parents do not act in their children’s best interest and schools may trump parental authority when they suspect they might disagree with parental decisions – provide no permissible justification whatsoever.”
“It is parents who are given the primary right to care for their child, not school counselors, teachers, or principals. [F]undamental parental rights, like other fundamental rights, may only be curtailed or withheld after notice and due process,” the brief continues.
The Linn-Mar Community School District is clearly prioritizing a radical ideology over parents’ fundamental rights, and WFA is proud to take a stand for parents and children’s safety.
In another recent case, former school counselor at Allen-Field Elementary School in the Milwaukee Public School District (MPS) Marissa Darlingh was fired for exercising her First Amendment right to free speech. At a feminist rally, Darlingh expressed her concern about the dangers associated with “gender identity ideology,” especially for children.
Darlingh has filed a lawsuit against the school district in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, and she is being represented by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty.
“The District has blatantly violated Ms. Darlingh’s First Amendment rights. Firing her for expressing her views on such an important subject is not only inexcusable, but unconstitutional,” said WILL Deputy Counsel, Luke Berg.
The lawsuit alleges that the district violated Darlingh’s First Amendment and Due Process rights, as the termination letter cited her speech at the feminist rally as the reason for her termination. That speech was given on her own personal time outside of campus. The lawsuit seeks reinstatement to her position at the school, back-pay, and removal of the no-trespass order against her. We are hopeful that this case will affirm the First Amendment rights of all teachers.
Schools are now pushing radical gender ideology on students, hiding information about students’ gender identity from parents, and punishing those who disagree with their ideology. While the success of these lawsuits will help, we need parents and teachers to stand up and assert their rights. Parents have every right to know exactly what is going on in the classroom, and teachers have every right to condemn a radical ideology that is harming children.
Please pray for the success of these lawsuits and an end to radical indoctrination in the classrooms of government schools.