WILL Demands Answers Following Troubling Locker Room Incident

The unintended consequences of The Biden Administration’s changes to Title IX are playing out in school districts across the country, including right here in Wisconsin  

The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) is demanding answers and action from Sun Prairie Area School District (SPASD) after a significant allegation involving a violation of girls’ locker room privacy at East High School (EHS). In early March, four freshman girls at EHS participated in a swim unit as part of their first-hour physical-education class. After the class, the girls entered the shower area in the girls’ locker room with their swimsuits on, which was their common practice as they rinsed off. As they began to shower, a male student, who is 18 years old according to multiple sources, approached them, entered the shower area and announced, “I’m trans, by the way.” The male student then fully undressed and exposed his male genitalia to the four girls in the shower. 

Following reports to administration and communications from parents, SPASD administrators failed to comply with basic protections afforded by federal law. WILL’s letter provides more details on this incident and SPASD’s inadequate response. 

Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities. All public and private schools receiving any federal funds must comply with Title IX. Under this law, sex discrimination encompasses sexual harassment, which includes unwelcome conduct so severe that it effectively denies a person equal access to the education program, like the incident that occurred at SPASD. Title IX imposes mandatory duties upon schools like SPASD and grants meaningful rights to the victims of alleged sexual harassment. 

The Quotes: Libby Sobic, WILL Director of Education Policy, stated, “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. WILL is calling on the district to act promptly to restore a sense of safety and privacy in its schools.” 

Dan Lennington, WILL Deputy Counsel, added, “Public schools have two basic jobs: educate our kids and keep them safe. All too often our schools can’t do either. This is a wakeup call to all parents and taxpayers to become more informed about their local public school district and demand accountability.” 

The District’s Inadequate Response: Title IX requires that all reports regarding student sexual harassment be taken seriously and treated fairly. Under federal law, this incident should have been reported to the Title IX coordinator, who should have reached out to the girls, offered supportive measures, and provided them an opportunity to file a complaint. Since the district failed to take these steps, it cannot possibly know whether sexual harassment occurred. This failure violates Title IX. SPASD didn’t even follow its own Locker Room Privacy Policy, and SPASD’s response to the parents involved was inadequate. Moreover, SPASD did not consider its mandatory reporting obligations under state law because this conduct—an adult male exposing his genitals to four freshman girls—could potentially implicate Wisconsin criminal statute, Wis. Stat. § 948.10. 

WILL Seeking Answers: In its message to the school board, WILL seeks immediate action to protect all students entrusted to the care of SPASD. Such action would include following appropriate Title IX processes in the future, offering victims of sexual harassment supportive measures and the opportunity to file a complaint, conducting investigations when required by Title IX, re-training SPASD staff, disciplining staff that failed to protect students’ rights, and adjusting SPASD policies and guidance documents. Finally, WILL is calling on SPASD to adopt and publish Title IX procedures—as is already required—so that all students know what to do when they are confronted with sex discrimination or sexual harassment. 

WILL also filed an open records request, seeking the school’s restroom and locker room guidance that was in effect on March 3, 2023. WILL is also asking when the locker room guidance policy was created (before or after the incident) and what additional communications existed between school faculty regarding the matter.   

The Federal Government’s Emphasis on Title IX:  Just last year, President Biden honored the 50th Anniversary of Title IX, explaining that the law “protect[s] students from sex discrimination, including sex-based harassment and sexual violence.” President Biden also just declared April 2023 Sexual Assault Awareness Month, specifically ordering the Department of Education to “protect students from discrimination based on sex, including sex-based harassment and sexual violence.” 

Learn More: 

Libby Sobic

Libby Sobic

Director of Education Policy

Dan Lennington

Dan Lennington

Deputy Counsel

Cory Brewer

Cory Brewer

Education Counsel

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