Parents Protecting Our Children, UA, v. Eau Claire Area Sch. Dist., 95 F.4th 501 (7th Cir. 2024).

Gender Identity Administrative Guidance

General Interest to School Officials
Case: Parents Protecting Our Children, UA, v. Eau Claire Area Sch. Dist., 95 F.4th 501 (7th Cir. 2024).
Date: Thursday, March 7, 2024

Parents Protecting Our Children (Plaintiffs), an association of parents, sought an injunction against the Eau Claire Area School District in Wisconsin (District) to stop the enforcement of the District’s Administrative Guidance for Gender Identity Support (Administrative Guidance). Plaintiffs argued that the Administrative Guidance violated the Due Process and Free Exercise Clauses of the U.S. Constitution by interfering with their right to make decisions on behalf of their children.

The District’s Administrative Guidance envisioned that either students or parents may contact school officials with questions, concerns, or requests bearing on matters of student gender identity, and acknowledged the delicacy and sensitivity of such matters. It also noted the possibility that students “may not be ‘open’ at home for reasons that may include safety concerns or lack of acceptance” and, for that reason, it instructed school personnel to speak with a gender non-conforming student first before discussing the student’s gender identity with the student’s parents.

The United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin dismissed the case due to lack of subject matter jurisdiction, stating that Plaintiffs failed to identify any instance where the Administrative Guidance was applied in a way that infringed on parental rights.

The Seventh Circuit affirmed the District Court’s ruling and held that Plaintiffs’ concerns about potential applications of the Administrative Guidance did not establish standing to sue unless the Administrative Guidance resulted in an injury or created an imminent risk of injury. The Seventh Circuit stated that Plaintiffs had brought a pre-enforcement facial challenge against the Administrative Guidance without any evidence of the District applying it in a manner detrimental to parental rights.

The Seventh Circuit also noted that the Administrative Guidance did not mandate exclusion of parents from discussions or decisions regarding a student’s gender expression at school. Since Plaintiffs’ alleged harm was dependent on a speculative “chain of possibilities,” which was insufficient to establish standing, the Seventh Circuit upheld the dismissal of the lawsuit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Mary Bandstra, IASB Law Clerk