An 18-year-old male student at a Wisconsin high school who identifies as female entered the girls’ locker room and began showering naked with four 14-year-old girls, a conservative legal organization said Wednesday.
In a letter sent Wednesday to the school district, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, Inc. (WILL) said that on March 3 four freshman girls at Sun Prairie East High School (EHS) were showering and changing after a physical education class. When they entered the lockers, they found a senior male student, believed to be 18 years old at the time, in the room that contained the lockers and benches. The girls said the student wasn’t in the class with them, but proceeded to the shower area even though they were uncomfortable. They were aware that the student identified as transgender and had used girls’ bathrooms previously, according to the letter.
The girls showered with their bathing suits on, which was common practice. Just when they started to shower, WILL said, the transgender student fully undressed and entered the shower next to one of the girls. The student was initially facing the wall but then turned toward the four girls, exposing his male genitalia to all four freshmen.
“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,” WILL’s letter stated.
The girls didn’t know what to do and didn’t immediately report the incident, but after one girl told another student what happened, that student said they should report it, according to the letter. Three days after the incident in the shower, the uninvolved student reported it to student services. The incident should have been reported under Title IX, an anti-sex discrimination law that protects students against sexual harassment and assault. But Associate Principal Heidi Walter didn’t report the incident to the Title IX coordinator, and instead asked for the names of the students involved, according to the letter.
On March 10, the student who reported the incident had gained permission to provide the students’ names and was ready to do so, but Walter said that the girls could approach her if they wanted. She later admitted, according to WILL, that she should have “dug deeper” into the issue.
The four girls should have been provided supportive measures under Title IX, but instead, the school focused on the transgender student, WILL said. EHS’ principal did, however, apologize to a parent in an email by saying the incident “should not have happened” and vowing to “continue to work to ensure no one has a similar experience,” though she didn’t outline any steps the school would take.
WILL said that the Sun Prairie Area School District dismissed the rights and concerns of the freshmen girls while assuring parents that the issue had been resolved. The district also pointed to its “Restroom and Locker Room Accessibility Guidance,” which may not have even been in effect. The guidance, according to WILL, suggests that if a transgender student “makes any request regarding the use of locker rooms,” the school will evaluate the request. The policy says nothing about students who don’t make requests, if permission is required, or who makes the determination on the student’s request.
The school district’s policy says that a “student who is transgender, nonbinary, or gender expansive will be permitted to access the men’s/women’s segregated restrooms in accordance with the student’s gender identity that the student regularly asserts at school and in other social environments.”
It further states that any “Student who has a need or desire for increased privacy, regardless of the underlying reason, may be provided with access to a single-access restroom where such a facility is reasonably available, but no student shall be required to use such a restroom because of the student’s transgender, nonbinary, or gender expansive status.”
The school district has also released a statement saying it stands by “LGBTQIA+ students and staff,” taking “seriously our responsibility to provide safe, nondiscriminatory, and inclusive environments for people of all orientations and identities as they reflect our diverse community around us.”
The statement also says that “all children will be safe and loved in our schools,” which WILL argued has not been upheld in this case.
“Here, four freshman girls taking a shower in their swimsuits in what is supposed to be a private and safe space, were exposed to the male genitals of a senior student against their will,” WILL’s letter stated. “Considering student development, high school being a relatively new environment for freshman girls, the power dynamics between not only a biological male and female but between a senior and a freshman, and student safety, the age difference of the students here is relevant.”
WILL is seeking answers to why the school district didn’t follow proper Title IX procedure and has filed an open records request seeking the school’s restroom and locker room guidance that was in effect at the time of the incident.