It's no doubt that the work we do at the ACLU of Wisconsin is not only challenging but also emotionally taxing. But as 2022 comes to a close, we thought it was extremely important to remember that despite the difficult climate, we've had some very exciting wins over the past year.
Here are a few of our wins from 2022:
A victory for trans and nonbinary students
On November 23, Dane County Circuit Court dismissed a challenge to Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) guidance that protects students' ability to use different names or pronouns at school without being forcibly outed by school employees.
The national American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of Wisconsin, with pro bono assistance from Quarles & Brady, defended the school's guidance on behalf of three Gender and Sexuality Alliances (GSAs) in MMSD.
"Given the disturbing rise in animosity and bigotry explicitly directed at transgender and other LGBTQIA+ youth, preserving MMSD's guidance against forced outings is more vital than ever," said Larry Dupuis, ACLU of Wisconsin legal director.
Expanding voting access
As we've watched elected officials make vicious attempts to discredit the validity of elections and make it harder for marginalized communities to vote, the ACLU of WI created a robust plan to provide voter education and Election Protection support.
Our affiliate also compiled data from county jails across the state, some of which are denying people incarcerated the right to vote. After releasing our reports, we hosted a successful community conversation event, which welcomed other coalition partners doing this work to the table.
We've learned that at least 40 incarcerated people were able to vote from Milwaukee County jail – a new record in Wisconsin.
A win for Wisconsin students
We fought hard this year for Wisconsin students facing discrimination, and had victories in both the Cedarburg School District and Burlington Area School Districts.
After Cedarburg School District failed to respond to racist incidents in its schools adequately, we won an appeal requiring the school district to take reports of racial harassment seriously, with a court ruling that CSD must properly investigate complaints made by students.
In Burlington, we filed an appeal with DPI on behalf of a parent whose children experienced persistent racial harassment in Burlington schools. Our action led to a DPI investigation which found that the Burlington Area School District was made aware of but failed to properly respond to at least 19 incidents of racial harassment, leading the agency to compel BASD to submit a corrective action plan.
Following a separate case we brought involving a culture of racism within Burlington's high school football program, the district was ordered to provide staff with training on its discrimination policies and offer guidance on how to investigate discrimination claims.
Protecting our freedom to protest
In 2022, our protest rights were attacked. The Wisconsin State Legislature passed a bill that was purportedly created to stop so-called "riots," however, the broad and ambiguous language used in the legislation could have criminalized various aspects of lawful assembly and punished innocent protesters who were not involved in and were unaware of any illegal activity during a demonstration, potentially putting people at risk of incurring fines or jail time.
As a result, we joined with 30 other organizations in writing a letter to Governor Tony Evers, asking that he veto the bill and protect Wisconsinites' right to protest. We also facilitated an advocacy campaign asking members, supporters, and concerned citizens to send messages to the governor urging him to reject the bill. Thanks to all of our combined efforts, Governor Evers ended up vetoing the anti-protest measure.
We will keep fighting
For all of the challenges that have been experienced in communities across our state, we are energized by the work that we have been able to accomplish this year. And this work could not be done without the many members and supporters who stand with us each day. We thank all of you for your contributions to building a stronger and more just Wisconsin for us all.
We'll be back next year, ready to keep pushing. We hope you'll be there with us.