Former Wisconsin school counselor sues after being fired for opposing ‘gender identity ideology’

A former Wisconsin elementary school counselor is suing district employees for firing her in response to a speech she gave opposing “gender identity ideology.”

Marissa Darlingh, a counselor at Allen-Field Elementary School in Milwaukee, lost her job for her speech at a feminist rally last April in Madison in which she spoke out strongly against exposure to gender identity in elementary schools. She condemned individuals in the state capital “who want children to have unfettered access to hormones.”

Days later, a letter from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) informed her the department had initiated an investigation of her for “immoral conduct,” including the use of profanity. The letter noted she opposed gender identity ideology from entering her building, and she didn’t believe “children should have access to hormones or surgery.”

Darlingh was suspended and prohibited from being on school grounds after a supervisor and two Human Resources employees initiated proceedings against her for her actions. Darlingh apologized for her use of profanity and tried to ascertain whether she would be fired before the next school year started. 

Darlingh also sought the aid of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), which sent a letter to DPI in May raising constitutional concerns and noting the “threat to revoke Ms. Darlingh’s license for her public speech is as clear of a First Amendment violation as one can imagine.”

The letter warned a lawsuit would be filed if DPI began proceedings to revoke Darlingh’s teaching license.

“My views on the harms of gender ideology to children are informed by a desire to serve and protect children,” Darlingh said in an online post from WILL. “That’s why I got into education. I will love and serve every child under my care, no matter what. But I won’t recant under threat from the state.”

Still, Darlingh was fired a month after classes began this fall. Now she is suing certain Milwaukee Public Schools officials, alleging violations of the First Amendment in her termination. 

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

In a FOX interview, Darlingh differentiated between matters of sexual identity and transgender issues. While she says she supports “lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals,” she says she believes it is destructive and wrong to expose children to transgender ideas and medical practices.

“It has nothing to do with being lesbian or gay; it has everything to do with an agenda that’s being really driven by Big Pharma,” Darlingh stated.

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