The U.S. Department of Education is opening an investigation into whether the Sun Prairie Area School District failed to report sexual harassment following an incident this spring involving a transgender student in a girls’ locker room.
Dawn Matthias with the department’s Office for Civil Rights sent a letter to the conservative law firm, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, on Wednesday, confirming the Title IX investigation.
WILL filed a complaint against the district in June alleging 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 transgender.
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“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, a WILL attorney said in a statement. “We applaud the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights for investigating the allegations made in our complaint, but we all need to wait and see if they take this as seriously as they should.”
The Office of Civil Rights will investigate whether the school district “responded to a report of sexual harassment consistent with the requirements of Title IX.”
“Please understand that opening an investigation does not mean that OCR has made a decision about the complaint. During the investigation, OCR is neutral; OCR will collect and analyze the evidence it needs in order to make a decision,” the letter states.
WILL’s complaint alleges administrators at Sun Prairie’s 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.
District spokesperson Patricia Lux said the district will fully cooperate with the investigation. Since the incident, the district has a dedicated webpage on the topic.
Lux said the Sun Prairie Area School District does not condone “any student of one sex being present in a state of undress in the presence of students of another sex on school property, or a student of one sex showering in the presence of students of another sex.”
“What happened in this incident was not in line with our district’s practices,” Lux said.
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.
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