History of Wisconsin's Pupil Nondiscrimination Law

Wisconsin has a strong and longstanding commitment to providing equitable education for all pupils. When the Wisconsin Constitution was adopted in 1848, it called for tuition free schools open to all pupils of all races and religious beliefs. In 1949, it became illegal for a school board to exclude any pupil from public school based on religion, nationality, color, or race or to maintain separate schools to achieve exclusion. This act, created in 1949, was Wisconsin's initial pupil nondiscrimination law.

In 1975, this law was revised in response to the implementation of several federal laws. These federal laws included the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.

Based on these federal statutes, Wisconsin's state law was revised in order to expand its coverage and to protect additional groups. Specifically, sex, physical condition, and developmental disability were added as protected categories, and discrimination was further prohibited in "obtaining the advantages, privileges and courses of study in public schools throughout the state." In 1983, a provision was added to require school districts to make program modifications and services available to pregnant and school-age mothers to enable them to continue their education.

The 1985 budget bill, Act 29, repealed this law, and created s. 118.13, Stats., in its current form. The new statute required the state superintendent to promulgate administrative rules, which became effective in 1987. These rules established procedures and enforcement mechanisms for compliance with Wisconsin's pupil nondiscrimination law. Wisconsin's nondiscrimination law has remained primarily unmodified since the promulgation of the rules. The only significant revisions occurred in 1991 with the addition of "religion" as a protected class and in 2006 with the amendment to exclude single-sex classes and schools from the general prohibition against discrimination.