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Defending a Maine Mom’s Constitutionally Protected Parental Rights

Lavigne v. Great Salt Bay Community School

Case Status

Date Filed

April 4, 2023

Last Step

Filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Maine.

Next Step

Waiting for the School Board to respond to the complaint.

Case Overview

Parents have a fundamental right to control and direct the education, upbringing, and healthcare decisions of their children. But they cannot fully exercise that right if government officials hide important information from them about their children. Unfortunately, schools across the country are doing just that. Now the Goldwater Institute is stepping up to defend Amber Lavigne, a Maine mother whose 13-year-old daughter was given a chest binder—a device to compress breasts so the wearer appears male—by a public-school social worker without informing Amber or getting her consent—and, in fact, while encouraging Amber’s daughter not to inform her. Amber discovered the fact when she found the chest binder in her daughter’s room in early December 2022. Upon further investigation, Amber learned that school officials were also using a different name and pronouns to refer to Amber’s daughter, effectively “socially transitioning” her daughter—again, while concealing the fact from Amber.

Hiding vital information from parents about a child’s psychological and physical development isn’t just wrong, its unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has consistently held that parents have a fundamental right to control and direct the education and care of their children. These parental rights are broad, and government may only intrude on them when necessary to protect a child’s health and safety—for example, if there is evidence of abuse, which there is not in Amber’s case.

Unfortunately, officials at the Great Salt Bay Community School insist their actions were not just lawful, but even required by state law. The situation is just the latest example in a recent trend of public school leaders insisting they know better than parents about how children should be raised. Yet the U.S. Supreme Court has made absolutely clear that “[t]he child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.”

Case Logistics

The plaintiff in this case is Amber Lavigne, a Maine mom challenging the decision of her daughter’s school to hide the school’s decision to call her daughter by a different name and pronouns and support the school counselor who secretly gave her daughter a chest binder.

The Case was filed with the United States District Court for the District of Maine.

Ms. Lavigne asks for the court to declare her parental rights require that she should at least be told of any decision made by a school that directly affects the mental health or physical wellbeing of her child. This would include the decision to give her daughter a chest binder and the decision to socially transition her daughter. Both actions violated Amber’s constitutionally protected parental rights.

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