WILL demands a civil-rights investigation to enforce federal rights and confront the reality of dangerous policies, like the one in Sun Prairie, Wis.
The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) following a troubling incident that occurred at Sun Prairie Area School District (SPASD), where an 18-year-old biological male exposed himself to four female girls in the shower and stated “I’m trans, by the way.” Following the school’s failure to sufficiently address the incident, and their stonewalling of an open records request, WILL is seeking an investigation and remedies from the Department of Education under the Biden Administration.
The Quotes: Cory Brewer, WILL Associate Counsel, stated, “Parents and students should feel safe and have peace of mind when kids go back to school this fall. But, the Sun Prairie Area School District has frankly been dismissive in how it has handled the alleged sexual harassment towards these four freshman girls. The Department of Education Office of Civil Rights should promptly investigate the allegations made in this complaint, then act swiftly to remedy unlawful policies and practices.”
Dan Lennington, WILL Deputy Counsel, added, “These troubling events are occurring across the country, and by no means what happened in Wisconsin is an isolated incident. It’s imperative that the Biden Administration responds to our complaint—while sending a clear message that common-sense and the rule of law will prevail in schools across America.”
Additional Background: Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities. 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.
WILL claims in this complaint that SPASD discriminated against four freshman girls on the basis of sex. Not only did the district fail to comply with requirements under Title IX, but its policies fail to protect all female students in the district.
WILL also submitted an open records request on April 21, 2023 related to the incident, which occurred on March 3, 2023. To date, the only response WILL has received included a request by SPASD for approximately $11,000 in pre-payment before fully responding to our initial open records request. The school has yet to provide its policies regarding the matter or clarify when, where, and how male and female students may use locker rooms in the district.
SPASD’s Pattern of Civil Right’s Violations Against Students:
Unfortunately, the March 2023 locker-room incident, and the District’s inadequate response, is not an isolated civil-rights violation. Over the past few years, SPASD’s policies and conduct towards students have resulted in a pattern and practice of civil-rights violations related to both sex and race discrimination.
- Failure to Protect Students. SPASD has a dangerous record of failing to protect students from predatory conduct based on sex. SPASD administrators allowed—apparently for four to five years—a middle-school teacher to videotape boys in the bathroom at an SPASD school. The teacher is now under a federal indictment for child pornography. More information about this criminal case is available here. Furthermore, SPASD also encourages children to use a website called TrevorSpace, which connects adults and children in a forum to discuss sexually explicit topics. More information about this issue can be found here.
- Retaliation Against Parent Who Exercised Rights. SPASD retaliated against a parent who raised concerns about a book that was being read to First Grade students based on the sex-based messages portrayed in the book. After the parent complained about the book to a principal, SPASD hired an attorney to send a four-page cease-and-desist letter demanding that the parent stop communicating with the principal. More information about the incident can be found here.
- Racially Discriminatory Annual Awards Ceremony. Every year, SPASD holds a “Black Excellence Achievement Makers” (BEAM) Awards Ceremony. The ceremony only honors students of certain races; students of the wrong race are not eligible to receive an award because of their race. By hosting, promoting, and otherwise facilitating this ceremony, SPASD discriminates against students based on race in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. More information about this event is available here.
- Racially Segregated Events in 2021. During the period from June 21–30, 2021, SPASD hosted events entitled, “Sun Prairie Community Conversations on Race, Equity, and Inclusion.” The events, which were open to students, segregated participants according to the following races: “East Indian,” “Asian,” White,” “Black,” “Latinx,” and “Multiracial.” Racial segregation is discrimination based on race, and therefore a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. More information about this complaint is available here.
- Racially Segregated Field Trips. In October 2022, SPASD hosted a cross-country, seven-day, all-expenses paid field trip for a group of black students. Only students who are members of the Black Student Union were eligible to attend the field trip. By offering a field trip only to certain students based on race, SPASD violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. This violation is ongoing as the field trip is now scheduled every fall. More information about this complaint is available here.
- Racially Discriminatory Educational Programming. On an ongoing basis, SPASD offers a program called “Dear Diary.” This program is only open to “black girls.” By offering an educational opportunity to one race at the exclusion of other races, SPASD is violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. This violation is continuing as SPASD uses this program every year. More information about this complaint is available here.
- Racially Discriminatory School Boundaries. In 2022, SPASD adopted new boundaries its schools. In drawing these boundaries, SPASD announced that “racial composition” was the “primary criteria determined by the board.” As determined by the United States Supreme Court, using race to assign children to schools violates the United States Constitution’s equal-protection guarantee, and therefore Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. See Parents Involved in Cmty. Sch. v. Seattle Sch. Dist. No. 1, 551 U.S. 701, 746 (2007). This violation is ongoing as it continues anew every school year. More information about this complaint is available here.