The School District of Waukesha (Wisconsin) Board of Education this week passed a resolution recognizing parental rights with regard to political and gender issues. 

The measure, which passed the board 8-0, affirms biological sex as determinative in allowing students to join sports teams and use bathroom facilities. Board President Kelly Piacsek said she drafted the resolution to address concerns numerous parents brought to her and other school directors. She added that she is a parent of three students who attend district schools. 

Piacsek’s colleague Karrie Kozlowski spoke in favor of adopting her resolution to strengthen the rights of parents. 

“The right and the fundamental leadership [and] guardianship of [a] minor child is the parent,” Kozlowski told fellow board members and district residents in the run-up to the measure’s approval. “I think a lot about accountability. The accountability that I have as a parent is to indeed parent my children; the expectation and the accountability that I have of the education system and the teachers is to teach fundamental educational principals that they need to thrive and survive.” 

Four components make up the resolution the school directors passed Wednesday evening. They pertain to curriculum transparency and suitability, child safety, family values, and gender identity. 

Some of the more consequential elements of the measure guarantee that parents can expect classroom atmosphere and instruction to contain no political messaging; that parents will be informed of any incidents during which their children’s security has been compromised; that parents can opt their children out of “allowable lessons or curriculum that may not align with the family’s deeply held personal or religious beliefs”; and that school employees will refer to children with pronouns that correspond with their “biological sex” rather than their personal preferences. 

Wisconsin school boards’ interests in backing the rights of parents on gender and other political issues has seen an upsurge since Democratic Governor Tony Evers last year vetoed a Parents Bill of Rights. 

Before the Waukesha measure’s passage, a number of school-district residents spoke out on the matter, with some, like parent Sarah Harrison, voicing opposition.

“I want to be completely clear,” she said. “This is a political tactic, 100 percent based on speaking points from national Republican politicians such as Senator Josh Hawley [R-MO]. We also saw our Wisconsin state legislators attempt to pass a similar bill of rights last year. This does not come from organic issues in the Waukesha School District; this is manufactured outrage and you are playing right into the hands of the Republican Party.” 

Piacsek, who, like the other board members, was not elected on a partisan ticket, dismissed the suggestion her decision to address the issue was political.

“I appreciate the compliments,” she said, “but I do not know what the Republican playbook is, nor do I have a copy of it and what is in this resolution was my best attempt to synthesize the requests, concerns and issues that have been coming up at committee meetings and board meetings over the past year….” 

– – –

Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Wisconsin Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].