President Joe Biden’s Department of Education is attempting to radically re-define “sex” in Title IX to expand the law’s protections to “transgender” individuals. Thankfully, many voices are putting up a fight.
Under Title IX, schools cannot receive federal funding if they discriminate against any student on the basis of sex. According to a press release, the DOE wants to amend Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments so that “sex” includes “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”
As a result, any space, program, building, bathroom, locker room, or sports team that is separated by sex would be forced to accommodate biological men who believe they are, or “identify” as, women. Schools that rightfully refuse to allow biological males into women’s bathrooms could lose their federal funding.
However, there is hope. The proposed changes have not yet taken effect, and parents, the attorneys general of several states, and organizations like Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) are working to ensure that they never do.
The DOE received over 184,000 public comments from parents concerned about their children’s safety and the erasure of women. This is a record number of parents and other concerned citizens taking a stand for the rights of their families. It shows that parents are paying attention and are willing to take action to protect their children, which is excellent news ahead of a crucial election.
Similarly, WILL submitted a comment to the Department of Education detailing three significant concerns about the proposed changes.
“First, the reinterpretation of the definition of sex within Title IX is an illegal action by an executive agency because the proposed regulations are antithetical to the intent of the law – namely, to protect and support women and girls. Second, the proposed regulations will have a chilling effect on speech, including speech motivated by sincere religious beliefs, and academic freedom. Third, the proposed regulations undermine parental rights. WILL has requested that the Department respond to each of these concerns and reject the proposed rules,” reads WILL’s comment.
Wisconsin Family Action president Julaine Appling also submitted a comment on behalf of the organization. Our comments were along the same line as WILL’s.
WILL also has model policies available to school districts, including a model policy on student pronouns that the Education Department should take a note from. “Parents have the right to determine the names and pronouns that staff use to refer to their children while at school. Staff shall not refer to or address minor students by a different name or pronouns that differ from their biological sex, during school hours, without written authorization from a parent,” begins the model policy on student pronouns.
Another model policy establishes parents’ right to review instructional materials and related documents: “Parents shall have the right to access, upon request, the instructional materials used in the education of their children. In this policy, “instructional materials” means instructional content that is provided to a student, regardless of its format, including printed or representational materials, audio-visual materials, and materials in electronic or digital formats.”
We need leaders on school boards and legislators who will enact policies like these to protect children and parents’ rights—not undermine them. We have an opportunity to do just that this fall; let’s not waste it!
In the meantime, please pray that the efforts to block the DOE’s radical proposal are effective. Women’s rights, parental rights, free speech, religious liberty, and academic freedom are on the line; but we should remain hopeful because of the many voices that are fighting back and offering a better way forward.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Doe v. Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Tuesday. This is a critical parental rights case in which parents are rightfully challenging an absurd school policy that allows the school to majorly overstep its boundaries.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) brought the case to the Dane County Circuit Court in 2020 after MMSD implemented policies allowing students to use a different gender identity at school by changing their name and pronouns without consent from their parents. The district even instructed employees to hide the information from parents.
WILL argues that it is the right of parents to make healthcare decisions for their children, and gender confusion can significantly impact a child’s mental health. “Transitioning to a different gender identity is a significant psychotherapeutic intervention that requires parental notice or consent,” said WILL. MMSD is clearly violating parental rights by attempting to make this decision for them.
Dane County Circuit Court Judge Frank Remington issued a partial injunction in 2020 that prevents the school district from “applying or enforcing any policy, guideline, or practice” 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.”
This injunction is not enough, however. It still permits minors to “transition” at school without requiring schools to notify parents or ask for their consent. The parents challenging this rule also requested to remain anonymous, but Judge Remington partially denied this request.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court is now deliberating on the case and will determine whether the parents can proceed anonymously and whether the partial injunction goes far enough.
During oral arguments this past Tuesday (May 24), one of the attorneys for the school district struggled to admit parents have inherent rights regarding their children, saying that parents basically don’t have rights when it comes to the issue of their child’s gender identity at school.
When discussing the need for anonymity for the parents, WILL attorney Luke Berg asserted that disclosing the names could result in bullying and even harm to the parents and their children. Attorneys for the district refuted that idea and asked that the names be released to all the attorneys and everyone in their 3 large law firms, contending that these individuals (amounting at least 1000 attorneys alone) would not leak the names. Justice Rebecca G. Bradley spoke up and said essentially that she disputed the district’s assertion, noting that one of the groups that had filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case in support of the parents had their office firebombed after the leaked US Supreme Court draft opinion. Obviously, Justice Bradley was referring to us. (I was in the court room for the oral arguments.)
This case has huge ramifications not just here in Wisconsin but nationwide since it’s the first case in the country dealing with this issue. It could either help enshrine parental rights or severely compromise them.
For the sake of children’s well-being, parents need to be their primary decision makers, especially when it comes to questions of healthcare. Reaffirming a child’s delusion can pose significant negative consequences to their psychological development. They need the protection of their parents.
Chief Justice Annette Ziegler indicated the court would issue a decision promptly, which means we should certainly have the court’s final decision no later than June or July. In the meantime, please pray that the court rules justly and upholds parental rights.