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Federal complaint filed in Sun Prairie trans student shower incident

WILL alledges school district violated Title IX in its handling of incident

Blue lockers line a hallway in a school building.
A student walks down a hallway with lockers Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, at Hackett Elementary School in Beloit, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

A conservative Wisconsin law firm has filed a federal civil rights complaint for the way the Sun Prairie Area School District handled an incident this spring involving a transgender student in a girls’ locker room.

In its complaint to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty alleges the school district violated Title IX rules in March, when, according to the law firm, four 14-year-old freshman girls at East High School were exposed to the genitalia of an 18-year-old senior who is transitioning from male to female.

WILL alleges administrators at East High School did not inform the school’s Title IX coordinator or launch an investigation. WILL also alleges the district’s locker room use policy is discriminatory on the basis of sex, by not having students use locker rooms that correspond to their sex at birth.

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“No one at (Sun Prairie School District) contacted the girls to offer supportive measures or an opportunity to file a formal complaint of sexual harassment until after WILL became involved,” the complaint states.

The law firm is seeking an investigation from the Department of Education.

“There are several instances where the district did not comply with Title IX,” said Cory Brewer, an attorney with WILL. “We would be hopeful the district would voluntarily make a change.”

Sun Prairie School District officials did not respond to a request for comment.

When the incident happened, the district responded with a statement saying the account was “ill-informed, inaccurate and incomplete.” District officials declined to comment further, citing student privacy, but said further steps were taken to ensure a similar incident does not recur.

Title IX bans sex-based discrimination in any school or any other education program that receives funding from the federal government. Federal law also prohibits discrimination against transgender students.

“Parents and students should feel safe and have peace of mind when kids go back to school this fall,” Brewer said. “But, the Sun Prairie Area School District has frankly been dismissive in how it has handled the alleged sexual harassment towards these four freshman girls.”

WILL sent a letter to the Sun Prairie School District on April 19 asking them to address the incident and clarify its locker-room use policy, and to put a policy in place to protect the safety and privacy of all students.

The firm also submitted a public records request related to the incident. To date, the only response WILL has received is a request that WILL pay $11,000 for the records.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to remove incorrect references to the older student’s gender.