Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) counselor Marissa Darlingh spoke at a feminist rally at the Wisconsin State Capitol in April. During her speech, Darlingh claimed that she “oppose[s] gender ideology” in schools and that children should not be “exposed to the harms of gender identity ideology” or given “unfettered access to hormones—wrong-sex hormones—and surgery.”

She went on to argue that she “exist[s] in this world to serve children” and “to protect children,” and therefore opposes the social or medical transition of children. At one point, she said “[expletive] transgenderism.”

On April 29, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) informed Darlingh that she was under investigation to determine whether she could keep her educator license because she engaged in “immoral conduct” at the rally. A letter sent to Darlingh cites her use of profanity as well as her statements “oppos[ing] gender identity ideology from entering [her] school building” and her claim that she “do[es] not believe children should have access to hormones or surgery” as examples of her “immoral conduct.”

DPI is violating the First Amendment. Darligh has the right to speak out against gender ideology without fear of losing her job. Thankfully, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty is standing up for her.  

WILL sent a letter to DPI reminding the agency of Darlingh’s First Amendment rights. The counselor’s speech was on a Saturday, outside of school, and she spoke out as a private citizen. Further, state law clearly defines “immoral conduct” as conduct, not speech.

WILL has threatened to file a First Amendment lawsuit in federal court if the DPI attempts to revoke Darlingh’s license.

We need more school teachers and staff to speak out against gender ideology as it is being injected into lessons and feeding children with harmful lies. However, educators can only protect children if their First Amendment rights are respected.

This case sets an important precedent. State agencies have no right to control the speech of anyone, especially speech at a public rally on an employee’s own time. If the agency does revoke Darlingh’s license, it will be sending a dangerous message to the rest of Wisconsin school employees—that their public expressions must align with the agency’s ideology, or there will be consequences.

Further, this case should concern every American, as an attack on free speech anywhere is an attack on free speech everywhere. We are seeing our right to free speech diminish as more and more government agencies and companies crack down on speech they disapprove of.

To restrict the freedom of God’s creation is to violate God’s design. Please pray that WILL’s efforts to protect free speech are successful and that God will raise up godly school personnel who will not be afraid to speak up and truly act in the best interest of the children in their care.

WFA also wants to remind everyone that education freedom is alive in Wisconsin through the multiple educational options we have.

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