Kettle Moraine School Board addresses ‘hot topics’
Special to The Freeman
WALES — The Kettle Moraine School Board addressed political imagery, pronouns and how to communicate with parents on issues pertaining to gender identity, sexual orientation, self-harm and pregnancy in a meeting Tuesday evening.
“The general concept is, has been, will continue to be that we will communicate with parents,” School Board President Gary Vose said. “We won’t have a practice like, I’ve read in the papers, like some of the districts over in the Madison area where they have policies specifically stating ‘we’re not going to talk to parents,’ that’s not the way we’ve been functioning, it’s not the way we will function.”
Superintendent Steve Plum said that in the coming weeks he and Director of Student Services Charles Wiza will work with legal counsel to review practices pertaining to supporting children and families dealing with gender identity and the other aforementioned issues.
“I think our practice and procedures have to be well understood by student services, guidance counselors, instructional staff and, as things get more complicated,... we want to adhere to what is legal and what is best for students and the community,” he said. The board supported these initiatives, saying it is important for parents to know how districts are handling these heated topics, as one board member said.
The board also discussed political imagery and is updating the “interpretation, application and expectation” of existing code KMORR 522.
KMORR 522 relates to employee professional code of conduct. A clause of the code states that all district employees are expected to refrain from “using their position to promote partisan politics, sectarian religious view, or selfish propaganda of any kind.”
“This expectation includes Pride flags,” Plum said. “This expectation relates to staff emails and email signature lines. The standardized email expectation is name, position, title, location... this expectation prohibits pronouns, political language, religious views, etc.”
The board said it is not changing the language of the code, but will be notifying staff of these interpretations by the start of the school year. In response to board member questions and concerns, the superintendent said these restrictions include messaging relating to Black Lives Matter and Thin Blue Line, but would not include imagery that is not “in your face” like a cross necklace.
“We’re in a world where politics are highlighted and it puts people in uncomfortable positions,” Plum said.
The topic of pronouns comes as parents are suing the district for allegedly allowing students to change their preferred names and gender pronouns at school without parental consent. The board did not address the lawsuit specifically on Tuesday.
Parents are suing the district over a policy that allegedly allows minor students to change their names and gender pronouns at school without parental consent. The plaintiffs are seeking a court declaration that KM’s policy “violates parents’ constitutional rights,” and these parents’ rights have been violated.
The district responded that “there is no justiciable controversy as one set of plaintiffs are no longer in the district and the other set of plaintiffs do not currently have a child for which the policy would have a current application and therefore they do not have standing or a claim which is ripe for determination,” according to court records.
Kettle Moraine School District officials do not comment on active litigation.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs argue the district adopted a policy that disregards parents’ decisions about how their children will be addressed at school.
According to the complaint, a daughter attended a mental health center while processing significant anxiety and depression. The complaint states the center allegedly affirmed the child’s identity as a transgender boy. In late December, the daughter told her parents she wanted to “adopt a new male name and use male pronouns when she returned to school.” One of the child’s parents told school officials the parents “wanted teachers and staff to refer to their daughter using her legal name and female pronouns when she returned to school.”
A district official allegedly told the parents staff would refer to their child by whatever name and pronouns the child wanted while at school.
Following that communication, the family pulled their daughter out of school. During her time at home, the complaint says, the daughter changed her mind about transitioning to a male identity and instead wanted to maintain her birth name and female pronouns.
The complaint says staff at the family’s new school have said they’ll follow the same approach on names and pronouns if their daughter decides to transition at school again.