Doe v. MMSD

Case Name: John Doe et al v. Madison Metropolitan School District

Type of Case: Parental Rights

Court: Dane County Circuit Court

Case Number: 20-CV-454

Filed On: February 18, 2020

Current Status: On April 3, the District filed a motion to dismiss on standing and opposed Plaintiffs request to proceed anonymously.  We filed a response to the District’s motion on April 30.  A hearing on standing and anonymity is scheduled for May 26.

In April 2018, the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) adopted “Guidance and Policies to Support Transgender, Non-binary & Gender-Expansive Students.” Importantly, the policy includes the following provisions:

  • Children of any age can transition to a different gender identity at school, by changing their name and pronouns, without parental notice or consent.
  • District employees are prohibited from notifying parents, without the child’s consent, that their child has or wants to change gender identity at school, or that their child may be dealing with gender dysphoria.
  • District employees are even instructed to deceive parents by using the child’s legal name and pronouns with family, while using the different name and pronouns adopted by the child in the school setting.

The MMSD policy violates parents’ constitutionally protected rights in multiple ways, including:

  • Parents have the right to make important healthcare decisions on their children’s behalf. Transitioning to a different gender identity is a significant psychotherapeutic intervention that requires parental notice or consent. There are multiple treatment options for gender dysphoria, some of which don’t involve transitioning, so parents must be involved in which treatment path to pursue.
  • Gender dysphoria is often associated with significant psychological distress and requires support from mental health professionals. MMSD’s policy interferes with parents’ ability to provide the support their children may urgently need.
  • The policies also conflict with the “general rule [in Wisconsin] requiring parents to give consent to medical treatment for their children.”
  • For some parents, gender identity issues also have religious significance. MMSD’s policy interferes with parents’ free-exercise rights to raise their children in accordance with their religious beliefs and to select a treatment approach consistent with those beliefs.

WILL issued a demand letter to the school district on December 18 urging the district to update and amend the above policies to avoid a lawsuit. MMSD responded on January 31 that there would be no update to district policies.

Following the district’s refusal to update the policies, WILL, on behalf of a group of Madison parents, filed this lawsuit in Dane County Circuit Court against MMSD for adopting and implementing policies that violate the rights of district parents. These policies violate critical constitutionally recognized parental rights.

WILL represents 14 individual parents from 8 families with students in MMSD.