Last spring, the Town of Hayward used an obscure state law to hold its annual meeting without public notice. At the meeting, three resolutions were passed, including a $15 million building project and reorganization of the town board. This came despite the fact that during a 2019 advisory referendum, residents of Hayward expressed their disapproval of a comparable $5 million construction project.
More than 270 residents took initiative to organize and gather signatures with the aim of convening a “special town meeting” to reconsider the resolutions. Residents and town electors have provided three separate written requests, but to date, the town clerk has refused to call the meeting. Citizens also contacted Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), which has now sent the town a letter demanding that they abide by Wisconsin law and hold a public town meeting so residents can weigh in on spending projects.
WILL’s client, Brenda Dettloff, said, “The Town of Hayward is denying citizens open, accountable, and transparent government. Before significant updates to town infrastructure and amenities are made, taxpayers deserve to have their voices heard. Because of that simple fact, hundreds of Hayward citizens, from across the political spectrum, are speaking out as one voice and demanding a true public meeting ‘of the People’ to properly vet the pending resolutions.”
WILL’s letter asks the town to fulfill its legal duty by either confirming that it will provide the public notice of a September 15 town meeting, as requested by the residents, or explain how the town believes their petition was insufficient. “If you refuse to do so by Monday, August 28, 2023, we will petition for a writ of mandamus in circuit court ordering you to do so,” wrote WILL.
This story beautifully demonstrates “the multiplied power of one.” When one person gets involved and reaches out to recruit even just a handful of others who in turn reach out to others, they end up making a huge difference, especially at the local level.
It’s been said that all that’s necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Alert citizens willing to get involved can make a tremendous difference. Holding elected officials accountable is essential and is part of being a good steward of this republic we are blessed to live in. We should each consider how we can use the “multiplied power of one” where we live to make our communities truly good for families!
In early March, four 9th grade girls at East High School (EHS) in the Sun Prairie Area School District (SPASD) used the shower area in their locker room after their physical-education class. Because transgender ideology has permeated Wisconsin schools, the girls experienced a grave violation of their privacy. Thankfully, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) is taking a stand for the victims and demanding answers.
As the girls began to shower in their swimsuits after swim class, an 18-year-old male student entered the shower area and told the girls he was “trans.” Then, the male student fully undressed, completely exposing himself to these freshmen girls.
Parents of the girls alerted the school district of the incident, but administrators failed to address the issue and provided a “completely inadequate” response, according to WILL. Under federal law, school administrators should have reported the incident to the Title IX coordinator right away. Then, the coordinator should have contacted the four girls and helped them file a complaint. However, no one contacted the girls or launched an investigation.
After several requests, the girls’ parents were finally able to meet with school administrators to discuss the incident over a month after it occurred. However, no one was able to provide answers to the parents’ questions. District staff simply referenced a “policy” that they claimed addresses this situation, but they did not identify, describe, or bring the policy to the meeting.
Several days later, the EHS principal sent a copy of a “Restroom and Locker Room Accessibility Guidance” policy to one of the parents, but according to WILL, there is no “indication that this policy has ever been in effect, was in effect on March 3, or was ever approved by the School Board.”
Further, the guidance document allows males to use the girls’ locker room regardless of the comfort of female students. The guidance only says that if a male requests to use the women’s locker room, then school administrators will evaluate and respond to the request on a “case-by-case basis.” However, “What if there is no such request? Is permission to use the girls’ locker room required? Who evaluates whether access will be permitted? The policy does not answer these questions,” noted WILL in a letter to the district.
WILL went on to ask administrators to implement policies that will immediately protect the privacy and safety of students, noting that the school violated Title IX.
“Under the Title IX regulations, sex discrimination encompasses sexual harassment, which includes unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe that it effectively denies a person equal access to the education program. Here, four freshman girls taking a shower in their swimsuits in what is supposed to be a private and safe space, were exposed to the male genitals of a senior student against their will. Considering student development, high school being a relatively new environment for freshman girls, the power dynamics between not only a biological male and female but between a senior and a freshman, and student safety, the age difference of the students here is relevant,” reads the letter.
WILL is also demanding that the district offer supportive measures to victims of sexual harassment, provide victims an opportunity to file a complaint, conduct investigations of such cases, re-train district staff, hold accountable the staff that failed to uphold students’ rights, and adjust district policies and guidance documents to protect students.
“School districts need to think through what loosening boundaries for single-sex spaces could mean for girls. Parents are understandably concerned about whether school districts—like the Sun Prairie Area School District—are doing everything required to protect girls in bathrooms and locker rooms,” said Libby Sobic, WILL Director of Education Policy. This incident is what inevitably happens when policy is rooted in ideology rather than reality, common sense, and the right to personal, bodily privacy. No student should have to fear sexual harassment while using a bathroom or locker room at school.
Hopefully this case serves as yet another wake-up call for parents whose children are in a government school. If this happened in Sun Prairie (a “bedroom community” of Madison), it can happen in most any school in our state. From what we can tell, this young man was not dressed like a girl, he simply announced that he was “trans.” Students don’t have to do anything in most schools to “prove” they are “trans.” They just have to announce it. Parents, for the well-being of their children, need to know what the school’s policies are, how they are being enforced, and keep open and frequent communication with their children on this issue.
If WILL doesn’t get the right response from SPASD, we would assume they will sue the district, making this another poignant lesson for all Wisconsin schools. Special rights and protections for “trans” students cannot violate the fundamental rights of “non-trans” students, with girls being the most vulnerable in these situations.
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.