The Biden administration has opened a Title IX investigation into a Madison, Wisconsin-area school district months after four freshman girls told authorities that a transgender-identified 18-year-old male student showered in front of them, exposing his genitals, in a high school locker room.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) last week confirmed it has launched a probe into the Sun Prairie Area School District’s (SPASD) activities in response to a federal complaint filed nearly six months ago.
OCR says it will remain neutral as its agents “collect and analyze the evidence it needs in order to make a decision” on whether the school district “responded to a report of sexual harassment consistent with the requirements of Title IX.” Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.
A Sun Prairie schools official said the district will fully cooperate with OCR’s investigation.
‘I’m Trans, by the Way’
The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), a Milwaukee-based civil rights law firm, filed the Title IX complaint in June on behalf of parents of the freshman girls.
As previously reported, the purported incident occurred on March 3 when the unidentified 18-year-old male student, who claims to be a woman, allegedly showered unclothed in a high school locker room in the presence of four female freshmen students.
According to WILL’s letter to the district’s board of education, the freshman girls were participating in a swimming class at Sun Prairie’s East High School. They entered the girls’ athletic locker room to shower and change for class when they saw a senior male student standing at one of the lockers.
While the girls said they were surprised to see the senior in their locker room, “they had a general idea that this student identifies as transgender and has used girls’ bathrooms before,” the letter states.
The girls entered the shower area with their swimsuits on, which was their common practice as they rinsed off, according to WILL. As they began to shower, the male student approached them, entered the shower area, announced, “I’m trans, by the way,” and then undressed fully and showered completely naked right next to one of the girls.
“He was initially turned towards the wall but eventually turned and fully exposed his male genitalia to the four girls,” the letter states.
“Understandably, the girls were caught off guard and shocked, closed their eyes, and tried to hurry up and leave the showers as quickly as possible,” a WILL attorney wrote.
East High School officials failed to investigate the incident at the time, WILL alleges. It took more than a month for school officials to hold an in-person meeting about the locker room incident, according to the law firm.
In its complaint to the Department of Education, WILL claims no school district official contacted the girls “to offer supportive measures or an opportunity to file a formal complaint of sexual harassment until after WILL became involved.” The law firm also asserts that when its clients continued to seek answers from the school district, “they received a response from the Title IX coordinator … who said that SPASD ‘does not condone any student of one sex being present in a state of undress in the presence of students of another sex, or a student of one sex showering in the presence of students of another sex.’”
This assertion, however, is inconsistent with another statement issued by the same coordinator, who reportedly said that “transgender students will not be forced to continue using locker rooms corresponding to their sex at birth.”
In a press release and email to parents in April, the district claimed it had “previously addressed this incident when it was brought to our attention. Steps have been taken to ensure that it does not recur.”
But in its complaint, WILL charges that it’s not clear precisely what steps were taken by the district, which is widely known for its woke “diversity, equity, and inclusion” policies. The law firm sought all communications related to the incident. Nearly a month later, the district’s special counsel informed WILL it would cost more than $11,000 to fulfill such a request.
“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 for the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, said in a press release.
The attorney said WILL applauds the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights for investigating the allegations, “but we all need to wait and see if they take this as seriously as they should.”
“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,” Brewer said.
This is the same presidential administration, after all, that has pushed a long line of far-left LGBT policies, including an executive order expanding access to wrongly named gender-affirming care for minors.
‘Parents Have a Right to Fight Back’
Patti Lux, director of communications and engagement for the school district, claimed the specific complaint that is the subject of the OCR investigation is unclear. She said district officials “anticipate the complaint relates to an incident the District previously investigated and addressed.” She said school officials already have communicated as much as they can based on student confidentiality laws, but the district has dedicated a webpage to the topic.
Lux reiterated that all individuals involved in the incident were students enrolled in the district and that the district “immediately addressed this incident after it was brought to the District’s attention and started an investigation.” She claims the school system “offered and provided support to the involved students and their families,” and that the school board was fully informed of the incident in a closed session meeting on May 1. At the time, the board apparently was briefed by the district attorney.
“What happened in this incident was not in line with our District’s practices,” Lux said.
But WILL’s complaint alleges Sun Prairie’s locker room use policies fail to protect students because they lack clarification about how, when, and where males and females can use locker rooms in the district. And the law firm claims the district failed to comply with requirements under Title IX when it learned the incident happened.
Dan Lennington, deputy legal counsel at WILL, said what occurred at Sun Prairie’s East High School is not 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,” the attorney said in the press release. “Now it’s imperative that the Biden administration conducts a thorough investigation and provides transparency and peace of mind to Sun Prairie parents.”