By DAVID SHARP Associated Press
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A Maine woman is suing a school district whose counselor encouraged her teen’s social gender transition, providing a chest binder and using a new name and pronouns, without consulting parents.
It’s the latest lawsuit to pit a parent’s right to supervise their children’s health and education against a minor’s right to privacy when confiding in a mental health professional. A similar lawsuit filed in California was working its way through the courts earlier this year. In Massachusetts, parents are suing a middle school for not telling them their two pre-teens were using different names and pronouns.
The federal lawsuit in Maine argues the mother of the 13-year-old student has a “right to control and direct the care, custody, education, upbringing and healthcare decisions of her children,” and that Great Salt Bay Community School violated her constitutional right by keeping gender-affirming treatments from parents.
Civil rights advocates have argued in other cases that schools must protect student privacy including their gender identity and sexuality under federal law, and that counselors need to be able to keep conversations with students confidential if they want to maintain trust.
Administrators at the Maine school add that confidentiality requirements have prevented them from responding to “a grossly inaccurate and one-sided story” that began circulating on social media. The superintendent didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment Thursday.
Amber Lavigne, of Newcastle, Maine, filed the lawsuit after being unsatisfied with the school’s response after she became concerned by the discovery of the chest binder in her child’s belongings in December. The compression clothing allows people to better conceal their breasts under clothing.
Lavigne’s child told her that a school counselor provided the chest binder at the school and provided instruction on how to use it, according to the lawsuit. The mother also says the school was also calling her child by a different name and pronouns.
The Goldwater Institute, an Arizona-based conservative and libertarian think tank, is lead counsel on the lawsuit filed Tuesday. It argues the Maine mother’s rights trump state statute allowing school counselors to keep information private.
Along with legislation banning surgical and pharmacological gender-affirming care, Republicans have also pushed so-called parental rights legislation demanding transparency from schools. A 2022 Arizona law expands the rights of parents to know anything their children tell a teacher or school counselor.
“I deserve to know what’s happening to my child. The secrecy needs to stop,” said Lavigne, who is now homeschooling her teenager, in a statement released by the institute.