School District Refused To Provide Speech Of Teacher Announcing Gender Transition To Students, Lawsuit Alleges

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Mia Hernandez Contributor
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A Wisconsin school district violated a public records request when parents were denied a copy of a speech given to middle school students where an orchestra teacher announced that he was transitioning genders, a lawsuit alleges.

Orchestra teacher Jacob Puccio announced to middle school students at Northstar Middle School in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, that he would be transitioning to a woman and wanted to be referred to as “Ms. Puccio,” according to a lawsuit filed by a parent alongside the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL). Parents requested to know what was said to their children and placed multiple inquiries for a copy of Puccio’s speech, which the school refused, leading the parent to file the lawsuit. (EXCLUSIVE: Former School Counselor Says She Was Advised To Keep Student’s Transgender Status From Parents)

Leah Buchman, a mother within the Eau Claire Area School District (ECASD) who has children in the middle school orchestra and high school band, requested a copy of the script that was read to students in multiple classes of both elementary and high schools in the district.

The request was denied, with the high school band instructor, Joe McCausland, specifying the script, “needed to be a verbal presentation only and was not to be shared electronically,” according to an email between McCausland and Buchman.

Buchman then submitted a public records request to ECASD for a copy of the statement, however the district attorney claimed that the document could not be shared because the district opened an investigation as to whether the announcement was handled improperly by an employee, but did not say when it began or who the subject is, according to the lawsuit.

“All I am asking is for the school district to provide what was told to my children and their peers in the classroom. As a parent, it’s my responsibility to help my kids understand all that life throws their way, and I do not understand why it has taken the school district so long to update parents,” said Buchman, according to a press release.

Pupils take part in the first written test in philosophy as part of the Baccalaureat (France's high school diploma) at a school in Paris on June 15, 2017. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP) (Photo by MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images)

Pupils take part in the first written test in philosophy as part of the Baccalaureat (France’s high school diploma) at a school in Paris on June 15, 2017. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP) (Photo by MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images)

Puccio allegedly told students about feeling like a girl from an early age and experiencing childhood trauma because parents and friends did not accept Puccio identifying as a woman and mentioned a surgery that Puccio plans to have, according to the lawsuit.

Further, the district’s superintendent has stated that he was “proud of the thoughtfulness and intentionality” behind how the information was shared with students, the lawsuit says.

WILL has sent a public records request for the script read to the high school band class, according to the lawsuit.

“It’s ridiculous for a school district to refuse to produce a statement that was read out loud to dozens of minor students in several district classrooms. What was told to these kids should be readily accessible to parents,” said WILL associate counsel, Cory Brewer, according to the press release.

WILL is also litigating another lawsuit against the district.

The first was brought against ECASD due to its gender identity policy where staff was instructed that parents are not entitled to know the identities of their children, according to WQOW.

“Parents want to know what is going on when their children are in school. And this should be common sense, both under school policies, federal law, open records laws, there’s no reason that parents should be kept in the dark about what is being taught to their kids. And we’re seeing more and more parents, realizing that they’re not being given all of the information and becoming really frustrated about this lack of involvement,” Brewer told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

North Star Principal, Adam Keeton and the Eau Claire Area School District did not immediately return the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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