Parents suing their Rock Springs school district for allegedly helping to socially gender-transition their high school student behind their backs have filed an amended lawsuit tailored around legal issues that appear most likely to win in court.
The new complaint emphasizes allegations against Sweetwater County School District No. 1 that it requires its teachers to lie to parents about their transgender-identifying children.
Sean and Ashley Willey first sued the district in federal court April 20, alleging that a district policy requires teachers to accommodate students’ wishes to be treated as the opposite sex and requires teachers to lie to parents about it in some instances.
In the new version of the lawsuit, they’ve dropped claims that the district is violating their familial privacy and are doubling down on allegations that it deceptively violated their parental rights.
How It Started
The Willeys’ daughter had been identifying as a boy at school, the complaint says, but district staffers allegedly kept that information secret from the Willeys despite knowing the girl had a history of trauma.
The district asked Wyoming U.S. District Court Chief Judge Scott Skavdahl to dismiss the Willeys’ lawsuit, saying their case is moot because the girl asked district staffers to start calling her by her female name and pronouns again.
How It’s Going
The case is not moot, Skavdahl decided.
The judge filed a June 30 preliminary injunction temporarily blocking the part of the school’s policy that could require teachers to lie to parents.
He chose not to block the part requiring teachers to use students’ preferred names and pronouns.
It is “difficult to envision why a school would even claim – much less how a school could establish – a generalized interest in withholding or concealing from the parents of minor children information fundamental to their identity, personhood, and mental and emotion wellbeing such as their preferred name and pronouns,” Skavdahl wrote, quoting from 2022 case law.
The Willeys’ claims regarding the district’s alleged concealment and dishonesty are likely to succeed in court, Skavdahl concluded.
The Willeys emphasized those allegations in a new amended version of their complaint, filed Thursday. They allege that school counselors are meeting with their daughter without Ashley Willey’s consent, and affirming her assertion of “a discordant gender identity.”
“District counseling staff were meeting with (the girl) during the 2021-2022 school year, without her consent,” reads the amended complaint, “and were discussing and supporting (her) assertion of a discordant gender identity and being treated as a boy with a male name and male pronouns, which had been concealed from Mr. and Mrs. Willey.”
No More Privacy Right
The Willeys’ new complaint doesn’t accuse the school district of interfering with the family’s privacy right, though the earlier complaint did.
Both the school district and Skavdahl had cited landmark U.S. Supreme Court Case Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to point out that the high court no longer recognizes that unenumerated family privacy right.
The civil counts that remain include:
The Willeys’ claim that the district impedes their parental rights;
The Willeys’ claim that the district interferes with their exercise of religion;
Ashley Willey’s claim that the district is violating her free speech rights,
And her religious rights.
There’s a new exhibit in the record as well.
The private therapist the Willeys have hired for their daughter, Carey Larson, submitted a June 28, 2023, letter noting that he has been treating the girl and has noticed “symptoms related to gender dysphoria.”
This relates to the Willeys’ claims that the school district has violated their parental rights in part by keeping them in the dark on health issues.
Skavdahl pushed back on that claim in his order because the first complaint, from April, didn’t claim the girl had gender dysphoria. The new complaint notes symptoms of gender dysphoria, which could link the girl’s treatment at school to the parents’ right to access her health information.
Also The Religion Issue
Ashley Willey is reiterating her claim that the district violates her religious and speech rights as a teacher who works in another school in the district by requiring her to lie to parents about her students’ identities.
“Contrary to (District Superintendent Kelly) McGovern’s statements,” reads the amended complaint, “Mrs. Willey in her role as a teacher was not told to address children’s requests on a case-by-case basis but was directed that she must ‘respect’ the child’s wishes and not inform parents.”
Skavdahl’s order says it’s a “problem” for the district to compel teachers to lie in spite of their religious beliefs.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.