Wisconsin school district: No referendum over gender policy was denied

The family of a Wisconsin student alleges the school district did not respond to their requests to hold back an election to change a public school’s policy on how to be addressed.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of the student and two family members says that the Rosendale School District “failed to act consistent with its stated policy for the purposes of assisting a student who was suffering from severe depression, and said student subsequently committed suicide.”

The parents asked for the school to hold a future referendum to change the nickname and gender identity policy. Their request was denied.

The students’ mother, Scotti, said in an interview with WCCO-TV: “I’m sure it got to her in a way that she would not accept, that at the age of 5 was going to resist his feelings, and by not listening to him, letting him down and doing nothing to respond and care for him, she got to the point where she felt like she couldn’t take it anymore.”

The lawsuit charges that “in addition to not reacting appropriately to their son’s suicide threats, the district failed to ensure that their son’s gender identity and pronouns were accurately listed on student rosters, student medical forms, and student disciplinary records.”

The lawsuit, which was filed Thursday in federal court in Madison, charges that “Rosendale’s community of students, employees, and parents is still deeply divided on the matter of changes in the school’s signage.”

Last year, Georgia’s DeKalb County School District became the first in the country to change an elementary school’s gender sign-on policy so that students can be addressed “by their chosen name, pronouns and birth name” in lieu of how they are actually addressed.

In September, the district decided to eliminate the “girly” pronouns of “she” and “her” from the student’s official name on official documents and on student rosters, and reverted to calling students by their chosen name or “non-gender specific names.”

“Our idea was to hear what our students had to say, have a dialogue about it, and then make a change,” said Betty Bass, superintendent of DeKalb County Schools, who argued that the school district’s concerns of discrimination against transgender students didn’t exist.

However, public reaction was mixed. Some people were upset. Others saw it as a victory. Some told the school district to stick to the original policy.

“Today was a pretty rough day because we had people asking for the opposite of what we’d done,” Bass said.

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