The federal government has opened an investigation into a Wisconsin school district over a harassment claim in a female locker room involving a student who identifies as transgender.
Earlier this year, The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) sent a letter to Prairie East High School (EHS) demanding answers regarding an incident of sexual harassment that allegedly took place on March 3.
Four female freshmen claim to have been sexually harassed by a male student identifying as a transgender female who exposed his genitalia to the young girls while undressing in the women’s locker room. The male student was a senior at EHS at the time of the incident.
According to a federal complaint filed by WILL, the four girls began to rinse off in the showers while still wearing their swimsuits when the male student “approached them, entered the shower area, announced “I’m trans, by the way,” and then fully undressed and showered next to the girls.” The complaint mentions that the student “had not transitioned medically and had the physiological appearance of an adult male.”
WILL then stated that student services and the assistant principal were notified, legally requiring them to inform the Title IX coordinator about the alleged incident of sexual harassment; however, no such report was made.
The law firm stated in its federal complaint that the incident was not handled with respect or urgency by Sun Prairie Area School District (SPASD), and the four females did not receive answers to the questions they and their families had, nor did they receive any support from the district regarding the experience. WILL additionally claimed that the district failed to protect its students, failed to properly address the harassment claim, showed “disregard for parents’ concerns,” and stonewalled an “open records request,” prompting the federal complaint.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Education (DoE) Office for Civil Rights sent a letter to WILL informing the firm that an investigation into the school district has been opened. OCR is specifically investigating “Whether the District responded to a report of sexual harassment consistent with the requirements of Title IX.” Attorneys at WILL applauded the DoE investigation in a press release shared on the firm’s website.
“Parents and students should be able to feel confident that their school is complying with federal laws like Title IX, but right now in Sun Prairie parents do not have that confidence,” Cory Brewer, Associate Counsel at WILL said. “We hope this results in answers for parents and families at the Sun Prairie Area School District, but we won’t know until we see the results of the investigation.”
Dan Lennington, WILL Deputy Counsel, added, “By no means is what happened in Wisconsin an isolated incident. When schools fail to act in accordance with the law and either ignore or disregard their own policies, parents have a right to fight back.”