Public schools are encouraging students to socially transition behind their parents’ backs, claiming secrecy is necessary to keep kids “safe”—from their parents.
Stephen Foote and Marissa Silvestri’s 11-year-old daughter was a sixth-grade student at the Baird Middle School in Ludlow, MA, during the 2020-2021 school year when her parents say they learned she identified as “genderqueer.”
It was news to the parents, but not to the school.
The Ludlow school staff played an active role in socially transitioning students to other genders, the parents allege. [Complaint par. 58] The chief instigator was the former school librarian: She advertised her own “nonbinary” status to the school community and told students not to refer to one another as “boys” and “girls.” She also met one-on-one with both their son and daughter, the parents say in the complaint, “on multiple occasions to discuss alternative genders, affirm the children’s choices of alternative names, and provide encouragement for their assertion of a transgender identity”—all without their knowledge or consent. [Complaint, par. 90]
In fact, the parents might never have found out about their daughter if it weren’t for one brave teacher who they claim forwarded them the email she sent to school staff [Complaint, par. 60]:
Hello everyone, If you are reading this you are either my teacher or guidance counselor. I have an announcement to make and I trust you guys with this information. I am genderqueer. Basically, it means I use any pronouns (other than it/its). This also means I have a name change. My new name will be R****. Please call me by that name. If you deadname me or use any pronouns I am not comfortable with I will politely tell you. I am telling you this because I feel like I can trust you. A list of pronouns you can use are: she/her he/him they/them fae/faerae/aer ve/ver xe/xem ze/zir. I have added a link so you can look at how to say them. Please only use the ones I have listed and not the other ones. I do not like them. Thank you. R*** Foote. [Complaint, par. 56]
The teacher was later fired, the parents allege, for her “inappropriate contact with the parents,” i.e., for sharing the student’s email with her own parents. [Complaint, par. 71]
That is because under the alleged Ludlow public school policy, when a student asks to be called by a new name and pronouns of another gender, staff members have to keep it a secret from the parents, unless they have the student’s consent.
From the Complaint, par. 35:
35. Plaintiffs are informed and believe and based thereon allege that from July 2021 to the present Defendant Nemeth, as Interim Superintendent of Ludlow Public Schools, has implemented the Protocol throughout Ludlow Public Schools and directed administrators, teachers, counselors and other staff in all district schools adhere to the Protocol by not notifying parents regarding their child’s gender nonconformity or transgender status unless the child had consented to his or her parents being notified.
It must get confusing for teachers, having to keep straight which set of names and pronouns to use when speaking to the parents and which set to use when speaking to their child in school:
From the Complaint, par. 103:
103. Defendant School Committee has condoned and facilitated the continued implementation of the Protocol, and in particular the intentional and blatant disregard for parental rights reflected in concealing information from parents regarding their children’s gender non-conformity or transgender identification and in actively deceiving parents by directing staff to use children’s given names and pronouns when speaking with parents but using the child’s asserted preference for alternative names and pronouns at all other times.
But those are the rules.
And anyone who objects to them, the former Ludlow superintendent later said at a school committee meeting, is just showing their “thinly veiled intolerance” masked as “parental rights,” the court found this past December. In defense of the school policy, he said that for “some students who are transgender or gender nonconforming, school is the only safe place to express who they are.” In other words, the policy was there to protect the students—from their parents.
In Court, Keeping Kids “Safe” Overrides Parents’ Rights
When Foote and Silvestri challenged that policy in federal court last year, they claimed that withholding information about their children’s gender identity violated their constitutional rights to direct the upbringing of their children and make medical and mental-health care decisions for them, as well as their right to family privacy.
But in December, U.S. District Court Judge Mark G. Mastroianni dismissed those claims. The court ruled that the parents failed to explain how social transitioning—referring to a person by his preferred name and pronouns—had clinical significance as a mental-health care intervention. “Addressing a person using their preferred name and pronouns,” therefore doesn’t violate the parents’ rights, it “simply accords the person the basic level of respect,” the court held.
Ultimately, keeping kids “safe” trumped the parents’ interests. The court admitted that the school’s policy “requiring school staff to actively hide information from parents about something of importance regarding their child” was “disconcerting.” Nonetheless, it was “consistent with Massachusetts law and the goal of providing transgender and gender nonconforming students with a safe school environment.”
The Ludlow parents appealed to the First Circuit, where their case is pending.
A parent in California fared no better last week when the federal district court tossed her challenge to a similar “Parental Secrecy Policy,” as we first reported here. In that case, Aurora Regino sued her daughter’s school in northern California, claiming it violated her parental rights by socially transitioning students without notifying parents or obtaining their consent.
Just as the defendants had argued in Ludlow, the California school insisted the policy was necessary to keep kids safe: In some cases disclosure can lead to harm to students from “potential domestic violence,” they said. Judge John A. Mendez agreed. He ruled that the school had demonstrated a legitimate state interest in “creating a zone of protection for transgender students” from harm—in their own homes.
An appeal to the Ninth Circuit is planned, Regino’s lawyer, Harmeet Dhillon[*] tweeted.
But the real harm to children doesn’t come from the home; it comes from the schools that socially transition them behind their parents’ backs. That is the thrust of the amicus brief filed by Ilya Shapiro of the Manhattan Institute in support of Ludlow plaintiffs Foote and Silvestri.
They say the Massachusetts district court was wrong to dismiss the clinical significance of social transitioning. In fact, decades of medical research show it to be an active mental-health intervention with potentially long-term catastrophic consequences:
Minors who are socially transitioned … are more likely to persist in their cross-gender feelings and, in time, seek medical interventions in the form of gonadotropin releasing analogues (puberty blockers), cross-sex hormones, and surgeries. These interventions carry known and anticipated risks, including lifelong sterility, sexual dysfunction, mood disorders, and increased risk for cancer and heart disease.
As Shapiro explains here, “far from a neutral act or polite convention,” secret social transitioning in schools violates parents’ constitutional rights.
You Don’t Want This To Happen In Your Family
When the Ludlow parents come before the court this next time, they won’t be going it alone. The Manhattan Institute is one of scores of organizations that have filed amicus briefs with the First Circuit Court of Appeals, on both sides. And a total of 35 states—19 in support of the parents and 16 in support of the school—had also weighed in by the end of last month. What began as a local conflict is shaping up to be a closely watched battle royale.
Parents are finally waking up to what child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr. Miriam Grossman has been watching with growing alarm for years: Transgender ideology has taken hold in public schools nationwide.
“It’s not only one school here and there,” she explained recently in an interview on Steve Bannon’s War Room, where she talked about her new book, Lost in Trans Nation. Transgender ideology is by now “baked into” the country’s educational associations.
Parents have to be proactive, she warns, because in the name of “safety” and “inclusion,” schools across the country are secretly encouraging social transitioning:
I want parents to understand that if your daughter is using the boys’ bathroom, or your daughter is changing her clothes in the boys’ locker room, your school is going to hide that from you, unless your daughter gives her permission for you to know. So the school is going to be complicit in the child’s delusion that they are the opposite sex.
Grossman doesn’t want one parent to find out from another parent at the grocery store that their daughter is using the boys’ facilities. By then it’s already too late. “You don’t want that to happen in your family.”
*Regino is represented by Dhillon Law Group, where my husband is a partner.DONATE
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