By Joshua Arnold
Wisconsin parents asked a federal court last week for a permanent injunction against the Eau Claire Area School District’s (ECASD) gender identity policy “to vindicate parents’ fundamental rights to care for and raise their children, and to religious freedom.” The unincorporated group Parents Protecting Our Children explain that the gender identity policy “mandates that schools and teachers hide critical information regarding a child’s health from his or her parents.”
ECASD publicly advertises their “streamlined, timely, and transparent” communication with families and community, but the lawsuit tells a different tale:
Specifically, the Policy allows and requires District staff to treat a child as if he or she is the opposite sex, by changing the child’s name, pronouns, and intimate facility use, all without the parents’ knowledge or consent. … At the same time, when interacting with the child’s parents, the Gender Identity Policy requires school officials, teachers, and administrators to continue using the child’s actual name and pronouns so the parents will not be alerted to the changes the school has made.
The Wisconsin parents’ group collected an array of evidence. A Student Gender Support Plan “specifically asks if ‘parents/guardians’ are ‘aware of their child’s gender status’ or ‘aware of [the] student’s requests at school’ with yes/no check boxes.” It also provides space to detail the student’s preferred name, pronouns, restroom, locker room, and lodging for overnight field trips; presumably, any or all of these options could differ from the one conforming to a child’s biological sex, not to mention placing their classmates in uncomfortable situations, including being forced to share a restroom, locker room, or overnight lodging with a person of the opposite biological sex.
ECASD trained their teachers to implement this policy. According to slide 56 of the “Facilitator Guide,” they assert, “remember, parents are not entitled to know their kids’ identities. That knowledge must be earned. Teachers are often straddling this complex situation. In ECASD, our priority is supporting the student.” The lawsuit adds, “The same training is overtly antagonistic toward religious parents. The Facilitator’s notes remind the facilitator that … it is the ‘weaponization of religion against queer people’ that is the problem. That is, parents whose core religious beliefs conflict with the ‘LGBTQIA+’ agenda are the problem.”
Teachers have even created their own innovations that fulfill the spirit of this policy, namely, “to interfere with
the parental relationship,” as the lawsuit puts it. One teacher posted a flier in her high school classroom that read, “if your parents aren’t accepting of your identity, I’m your mom now.”
“This is by no stretch isolated,” warned Vernadette Broyles, president and founder of the Child & Parent Rights Campaign. “School officials are doing this behind parents back across the nation.” Her organization has filed lawsuits in more than half a dozen states stretching from coast to coast, including states with Republican governors and legislatures. She appeared on a panel at the Pray Vote Stand Summit with one client, Wendell Perez of Florida, whose daughter was secretly transitioned at school without his knowledge.
“My blood still boils up to this day,” said Perez, and he told his heart-wrenching story:
The beginning of this year, my wife and I received a phone call from our daughter’s elementary school. … Our daughter attempted suicide by hanging in one of the school bathrooms. We wanted answers, and the school said that it was due to a gender identity issue, that she wanted to be a boy, and that we would never accept it due to our Catholic Christian faith. That was a surprise for us because … there was no indication at home that she was having any problem.
After that, we learned that they were having meetings and other interactions with my daughter involving the use of a fictitious male name and pronouns — without our consent, without our knowledge. Due to the nature of the situation that day, they put my daughter in a police car, took her from the elementary school … to the hospital, and she was admitted into a mental institution. They took her away from us for over a week with minimal contact until she was released under our care. … After that, we had to pick up the pieces and start a very painful healing process as a family.
“We were gobsmacked at the temerity of these school officials,” Broyles exclaimed. As Miss Perez’s case makes clear, social transitioning at school “is not a neutral intervention,” she contended, and not one “school officials are not competent or qualified or authorized to make. But even worse, … social intervention almost inevitably … leads to medical interventions.” This “interrupts the healthy development of a child’s body. For many children, it sterilized them,” preventing them from having their own children, and dooms them to a life of traumatic medical maladies.
Child & Parent Rights Campaign filed a lawsuit for the Perez family, based upon a parent’s fundamental right to direct the upbringing and education of their children, the parents’ right to the free exercise of their faith, as well as constitutional and statutory rights under Florida law. “She was being transitioned in secret, and our faith was used against us. They decided that, because we have a Christian faith, that was not safe for our daughter. So, they decided for us,” Perez lamented.
But one regulation could make the legal battle much more difficult. Under President Biden, the Department of Education (DOE) has issued a 700-page proposed rule to redefine Title IX’s protections against sex-based discrimination that promotes sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes. The public comment period on the rule recently closed with a record 180,000 comments registered.
If finalized, the rule “effectively would require schools and school officials to immediately and unquestioningly affirm and endorse any child who asserts a discordant gender identity contrary to the biological sex. … Nowhere was there requirement for parental notification or the consent of parents,” said Broyles. These “de facto policies that these schools have been instituting without the backing of actual statutory authorization” would suddenly have full authorization from the federal DOE.
But Broyles said the legal and political struggle is just one facet of the battle for souls of the next generation. A much more important aspect required more personal sacrifice, she said: being present in the schools. “Be present by being servants,” she urged. “I’ll tell you, that’s what the other side has done. They have gone into schools and have offered all kinds of assistance, including secret closets,” where kids can surreptitiously cross-dress during the school day. “This is coercive and distorted assistance” for sure, but it has the advantage of going uncontested. So, Broyles urged parents to get involved in schools, so they would actually know what was going on.
Similarly, Perez counseled parents who found themselves in a situation like his, “Do not be afraid. They’re counting on that. Just remember that you have the parental rights. The schools, they have responsibilities. They are the government. They respond to you. They are there to be an agent for the parent. We do not co-parent with the schools.”