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Wisconsin teacher sues school district after being fired for speaking out against ‘gender identity’

A Wisconsin public school counselor is suing Milwaukee Public Schools for firing her after she denounced gender ideology at a public rally in April. 

The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) filed a federal lawsuit against employees at Milwaukee Public School District (MPS) for its termination of former Allen-Field Elementary School counselor Marissa Darlingh over what WILL argues is protected speech under the First Amendment. 

Darlingh was fired in September over a speech she made regarding “gender identity ideology” at a feminist rally in Madison, Wisconsin.

During an unscripted statement at the state capitol, Darlingh said she “oppose[s] gender ideology” in elementary schools and argued children should not be “exposed to the harms of gender identity ideology” or given “unfettered access to hormones—wrong-sex hormones—and surgery.” 

She also said she does not support the social or medical transition of young children because she “exist[s] in this world to serve children” and “to protect children.”

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In what WILL calls “the passion of the moment” during her speech, Darlingh said “f— transgenderism,” in reference to the “gender identity ideology” she was denouncing.

Less than a week after her speech, Darlingh got a letter from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) that stated it had “opened an investigation to determine whether to initiate educator license revocation proceedings against [her]” for “immoral conduct,” such as her “statements that she ‘oppose[s] gender identity ideology from ever entering [her] school building,’ that she ‘do[es] not believe children should have access to hormones or surgery,’ that ‘none of her students will ever transition socially or medically under [her] ‘f—ing watch,’’ and her other uses of the f-word,” according to the lawsuit. 

“As a private citizen, I have the right to express my views concerning gender ideology on my own time, and identifying myself as a school counselor doesn’t negate that right,” Darlingh said in a statement. 

“My speech had little to no impact on my students, their educational experience or our therapeutic relationship,” she added. “The basis of my unscripted speech stemmed from my desire to protect children.” 

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In response to her speech, a group protesting the rally campaigned to have Darlingh fired from her job, which prompted a district “investigation,” according to the lawsuit. Darlingh’s supervisor and two HR employees brought misconduct proceedings against her, which resulted in her suspension and a “no-trespass order,” restricting her from campus grounds. 

Multiple students interviewed as part of the investigation described Darlingh as the “best teacher” or one of “their favorite teachers.”

On June 3, a fellow teacher at Darlingh’s school showed students an article about Darlingh to her 5th grade classroom and told students “they have the right not to see her for counseling services,” which WILL describes as “a transparent attempt to rally opposition to Ms. Darlingh,” according to the lawsuit. 

Another teacher “cornered” Darlingh twice that same day “in a way that Ms. Darlingh perceived as aggressive and hostile, both times related to her speech in April,” the lawsuit read.

Darlingh tried to work with the district to reinstated in her role, acknowledging “that her use of profanity went too far” according to the lawsuit. She also offered to “issue an apology to anyone who was offended by her use of profanity” and to meet with any staff or students who were offended by what she said. 

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Darlingh requested that the district schedule an “emergency conference” meeting “promptly so that, if it resulted in her termination, she would have time to search for a new job before the new school year began.” However, the district did not hold the meeting until the fall of the 2022-2023 school year. 

The district eventually fired her on September 30, one month into the school year, following a summer of unpaid suspension. 

“The District has blatantly violated Ms. Darlingh’s First Amendment rights,” WILL Deputy Counsel, Luke Berg, said in a statement. “Firing her for expressing her views on such an important subject is not only inexcusable, but unconstitutional.”

Darlingh’ termination letter “makes clear that the entire basis for” her termination was the comments she made in April, according to WILL’s lawsuit, which seeks reinstatement of Darlingh in her role at Allen-Field Elementary School, back-pay, damages for the constitutional violations and removal of the no-trespass order. 

Milwaukee Public Schools did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.

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