- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 7, 2023

A mother in Maine has demanded that public school officials fire a social worker who coached her 13-year-old daughter to become a boy without parental consent.

Amber Lavigne told The Washington Times that Samuel Roy, a counselor at Great Salt Bay Community School, secretly advised her daughter on gender transition and gave her two binders to flatten her chest during an October counseling session.

Ms. Lavigne said she found one of the binders in her daughter’s room in early December, prompting her to withdraw the girl from the school after officials defended Mr. Roy.

“I feel like my rights were violated and my daughter’s education was put on the back burner,” Ms. Lavigne said. “I feel like they overstepped and drove a wedge between my child and her family.”

School officials also started calling the girl “a different name and referring to her with male pronouns” on campus without notifying her mom, according to a letter to school board Chair Samuel Belknap.

These actions “violated Ms. Lavigne’s fundamental constitutional right to control and direct the education, upbringing, and healthcare decisions of her daughter, as protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” states the letter, which was released Monday by attorneys from the Goldwater Institute, a conservative free-market public policy research and litigation group representing Ms. Lavigne.

Officials at Great Salt Bay Community School, located in Damariscotta, Maine, declined to comment. Attempts to reach Mr. Roy were unsuccessful.

School district officials defended the school’s actions in public statements on Dec. 19 and Jan. 14, noting a legal duty to provide an inclusive and welcoming environment.

Mr. Belknap said in the first statement that the school’s policies and procedures “comply with Maine law, which protects the rights of all students and staff, regardless of gender/gender identity, to have equal access to education, the supports and services available in our public schools, and the student’s right to privacy regardless of age.”

The second statement, which Mr. Belknap co-signed with six other board members, said social media accounts about the controversy had “directly given rise” to several bomb threats last month.

“As you may or may not be aware, certain parties are spreading a grossly inaccurate and one-sided story to which the Board cannot specifically respond, given our obligation to maintain the confidentiality of student and employee information, as required by Maine law,” the board members wrote.

However, the law “does not command the blanket exclusion of parents” from those conversations, Ms. Lavigne’s lawyers assert in their letter.

The clash is the latest in a nationwide struggle between parents and public school officials over whether administrators have the legal right to help students change genders on campus without the knowledge of unsupportive parents. Dozens of public school systems have implemented policies that allow staff and teachers to coach children on their sexuality without notifying parents.

In Virginia, six Christian parents and teachers sued the Harrisonburg City Public Schools last June over a policy that requires educators to hide students’ pronouns and transitions from unsupportive parents, one of several pending lawsuits.

In Maryland, U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm in August halted a lawsuit that several parents filed against a similar policy in Montgomery County Public Schools. The judge ruled that Supreme Court precedent gives the government a “compelling interest” to intervene on behalf of transgender and gender non-conforming children who fear psychological or physical abuse from parents.

In her interview with The Times, Ms. Lavigne said she first discussed concerns about her daughter’s gender dysphoria with a seventh-grade counselor in September 2021. Great Salt Bay reassigned the girl to Mr. Roy at the start of eighth grade this fall, but Ms. Lavigne said she did not know about their conversations until after finding the chest binder in December.

The mother of three said she withdrew her daughter from the school in December after officials met with her several times but ultimately refused to fire Mr. Roy.

“The social worker over-identified with my daughter and overshared his personal experiences with her,” Ms. Lavigne said. “My hope is that this case will propel change statewide and across the country, because I’d really like to enroll my daughter in high school this fall.”

• Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@washingtontimes.com.

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