Massachusetts Parents Sue School District Alleging Officials Violated Parental Rights by Secretly Encouraging Gender Transition

Parents in Ludlow, Massachusetts, filed a federal lawsuit that alleges school officials secretly promoted their children’s gender transition and violated their parental rights by choosing not to inform them about issues related to their children’s health and well-being.

The parents, Stephen Foote and Marissa Silvestri, and Jonathan Feliciano and Sandra Salmeron, claim in their lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Springfield Division, the Ludlow School Committee and district officials “have exceeded the bounds of legitimate pedagogical concerns and usurped the role” of parents “to direct the education and upbringing of their children, make medical and mental health decisions for their children, and to promote and preserve family privacy and integrity.”

The lawsuit continues:

Defendants’ protocol and practice of concealing from parents information related to their children’s gender identity and efforts to affirm a discordant student gender identity at school violates parents’ fundamental rights under the United States and Massachusetts constitutions and violates children’s reciprocal rights to the care and custody of their parents, familial privacy, and integrity.

Feliciano and Salmeron are also making the claim the school’s actions violated “their fundamental right to free exercise of religion under the United States and Massachusetts constitutions.”

Foote and Silvestri allege Ludlow government school officials encouraged their child to adopt a new name and pronouns consistent with a new gender identity incompatible with the child’s biological sex, and without the parents’ knowledge or consent.

The parents claim they gave officials at Baird Middle School “specific instructions that school staff not engage with their children” on gender issues since they were already in treatment with a “mental health professional” who was addressing the concerns.

However, after receiving an email from their daughter’s teacher, Bonnie Manchester, they discovered school officials were referring to their child by a different name and pronouns.

The parents attempted to hold a meeting with Baird Middle School principal Stacy Monette in mid-March to discuss the disregard of their instructions and parental rights.

Feliciano and Salmeron allege they have been “deliberately hindered from ascertaining whether their children are being secretly counseled.”

The lawsuit claims former superintendent of Ludlow Public Schools Todd Gazda referred to opposition to clandestine gender transitions as “intolerance of LGBTQ people” that was disguised as concerns about “parental rights.”

“For many students school is their only safe place, and that safety evaporates when they leave the confines of our buildings,” Gazda said, according to the lawsuit.

Additionally, the parents allege Jordan Funke, former librarian at Baird Middle School, “instructed incoming sixth grade students at Baird Middle School to create videos and to include in the videos their gender identity and preferred pronouns.”

Foote’s and Silvestri’s 11-year-old daughter was among the students given that assignment.

“The videos of their children were created without the parents’ knowledge or consent,” the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit also cites “guidance” from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) that states, “[T]he person best situated to determine a student’s gender identity is that student himself or herself.”

The guidance continues:

Some transgender and gender nonconforming students are not openly so at home for reasons such as safety concerns or lack of acceptance. School personnel should speak with the student first before discussing a student’s gender nonconformity or transgender status with the student’s parent or guardian. For the same reasons, school personnel should discuss with the student how the school should refer to the student, e.g., appropriate pronoun use, in written communication to the student’s parent or guardian.

The parents “are informed and believe and based thereon allege that Defendant School Committee has interpreted the DESE Guidance statements … to mean that school personnel are prohibited from notifying the parents of a student of any age about their child’s gender nonconformity or transgender status unless the student consents to his or her parents being notified,” the lawsuit states.

According to Fox News, Ludlow School Committee Chairman James Harrington told MassLive, “We want to support our students the best we can.”

“But we should bring parents to the table and hope they respond in a loving and supportive way as well,” he added.

The Star News Network reached out to Harrington, asking him to clarify what he considers a “loving and supportive” parental response, but no response was received.

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Susan Berry, PhD is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Art Class” by Ludlow Public Schools.

 

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