Federal judge dismisses parents' lawsuit claiming school encouraged kids to identify as opposite sex

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A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by two Massachusetts parents against public school officials who allegedly encouraged their children to identify as the opposite gender without their consent. 

Although U.S. District Judge Mark Mastroianni criticized the Ludlow School District’s policy, he found that the parents’ lawsuit did not meet the “shocks-the-conscience” legal standard, a test to determine whether a situation is so unjust the court must intervene. 

However, Mastroianni also called the school district's policy for students self-identifying as the opposite sex “imperfect” and “flawed” in his Dec. 14 ruling

In his decision, the judge stated that the court is “apprehensive” about the school’s gender policy and actions, but it cannot conclude that withholding information about the plaintiff’s children meets the conscience-shocking standard. The reason, Mastroianni wrote, is due to the “difficulties this issue presents and the competing interests involved.” 

Mastroianni noted that Massachusetts law “recognizes gender identity as a personal characteristic deserving of protection from discrimination” and does not “provide exceptions to permit parents to override a school’s decision to support students who identify as transgender or gender nonconforming.”

“Addressing a person using their preferred name and pronouns simply accords the person the basic level of respect expected in a civil society generally, and, more specifically, in Massachusetts public schools where discrimination on the basis of gender identity is not permitted,” the judge ruled. 

The judge also stated that the parents provided “insufficient facts,” and the court could not conclude that the school’s conduct “constituted mental health treatment.” He further noted that school officials’ qualified immunity would prevent the parents’ lawsuit from going forward anyway, as their positions as government officials shield them from liability. 

However, Mastroianni found it “disconcerting” that the school would institute a policy “requiring school staff to actively hide information from parents about something of importance regarding their child.”

“Students and parents would almost certainly be better served by a more thoughtful policy that facilitated a supportive and safe disclosure by the student, with support and education available for students and parents, as needed and when accepted,” the judge wrote.

Ludlow Public Schools Superintendent Frank Tiano did not immediately respond to The Christian Post’s request for comment. 

As The Christian Post previously reported, Stephen Foote and Marissa Silvestri were joined by another set of parents on April 12 in filing a lawsuit in the Massachusetts federal district court. Foote and Silvestri claim that their children's school was “transitioning” students without their parents’ knowledge. The parents stated in the lawsuit that they became aware of the issue in December 2020 after their daughter’s teacher showed them an email in which the 11-year-old girl referred to herself as “genderqueer.” 

The lawsuit also describes a school librarian giving students an assignment in September 2019 that asked children to create videos of their preferred gender pronouns. The school reportedly did not inform the parents ahead of time about the assignment, and their children are believed to have participated in it. 

According to the complaint, the parents asked the school to refrain from discussing the topic of gender identity with their son and daughter, and allow them to “direct the mental health care of their children.” 

The parents cited their religious beliefs that “human beings are created male or female and that the natural created order regarding human sexuality cannot be changed regardless of individual feelings, beliefs or discomfort with one’s identity and biological reality.”

Foote and Silvestri accused the school of ignoring their request, claiming that their daughter “changed her preferred name at least twice since December 2020,” and the school continued addressing her by “whatever iteration of her name she has indicated she prefers. 

The lawsuit also describes how the couple’s son started identifying as transgender and asked others to call him by a female name, which the parents believe the school encouraged and helped hide from them. 

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follower her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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