Conservatives decry school district’s gender identity policy

September 24, 2019 GMT

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A conservative group has asked a Madison School District to repeal a policy that prohibits staff from telling parents if their child is transitioning genders at school, unless they have that student’s permission.

The guidance document went into effect last school year, according to a Wisconsin State Journal report.

Rick Esenberg, president of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, said the policy instructs employees to deceive students’ families.


“Whether there’s any aspect of the policy that can remain in place, there might be,” Esenberg said. “I’m not entirely sure that it is the school district’s job to take positions on things called the gender-binary. But our concern here, the thing that we’re concerned with as a legal organization, is the exclusion of the parents.”

Sherie Hohs oversees the district’s LGBT student support services. Hohs said outing students to families who may not accept their transition could have “devastating effects on their safety.”

There will be times when we will follow that student’s lead, Hohs said. “And if it’s not the right time to involve family and because we want all students to feel safe and welcomed ... we’re going to use their affirmed names and their pronouns, and we’re going to get their consent on where those can be shared.”

She said about 4% of Madison school students identified in a 2018 survey as transgender or nonbinary, or they rejected static gender identities altogether. People are nonbinary if their gender identity is not strictly male or female.

The guide also requires staff to communicate with family using the name and gender of a student in the district’s information system. Students who are transitioning can change their names and genders in the system with a guardian’s permission.

The approach is to help students of all ages, even elementary school age.

“Our students are coming out, and they’re coming out earlier, and we’re going to be there for them,” Hohs said.


Information from: Wisconsin State Journal,