Wisconsin Supreme Court to rule on MMSD transgender student policy

MADISON, Wis. — The state Supreme Court is set to rule Friday on a case involving the Madison school district’s policy regarding transgender students.

MMSD’s current policy allows students to use their preferred name and pronouns in school, but teachers cannot mention those changes to parents. A group of anonymous parents asked the courts to throw out the policy, and the case has been appealed to the conservative-leaning Supreme Court.

It is unclear how the court may rule.

“Trans students are among the most vulnerable people in our society,” said Larry Dupuis of the ACLU, which represented student groups in defending the policy. “It’s important for all students to feel like school is a safe place, and it’s particularly important for trans kids who may find that home is not a safe place to come out.”

Some experts say too that the challenge to MMSD’s policy comes at a time when things like abortion rights are struck down in the courts.

“What we are seeing legislatively and with the attacks on trans people across this country, they are part of a larger right-wing effort to attack bodily autonomy,” said James McMaster, a professor of gender and women’s studies and Asian American studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“It’s important to remember that trans, non-binary and gender-expansive youth are youth,” he added. “They are young people with soft hearts who are actually just trying to find a place in the world.”

Dupuis said that not sharing information about a student’s preferred pronouns is not the only instance in which a school might withhold information from a parent. He said under Wisconsin law, students are protected from having their parents informed if they seek counseling for alcohol and drug use. Dupuis said that is to allow students to seek the services without fear.

A decision Friday by the state Supreme Court may likely send part of the case back down to Dane County where the case originated.

Because the plaintiffs are anonymous, the Dane County judge first hearing the case left parts unresolved. Dupuis said this is because the respondents were not able to mount a full defense against an anonymous plaintiff.