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Massachusetts School Hides Pre-Teens’ ‘Gender Identity’ from Parents—and Goldwater Takes Action

March 20, 2023

Two Massachusetts parents were blindsided when they learned that middle school officials had been referring to their two pre-teens by different names and pronouns—and deliberately hiding it from both parents. Now, they are suing Ludlow Public Schools in federal court for violating their constitutional parental rights, and the Goldwater Institute filed a brief today to support their claim.

When those parents — Stephen Foote and Marissa Silvestri—enrolled their children in Baird Middle School, they didn’t know about the school’s policy requiring teachers to honor a student’s request to be known by a different name and referred to with pronouns not typically associated with their biological sexand mandating that teachers conceal this information from parents. So they were furious to find out that the school honored such requests from both their children, 11 and 12 at the time, without informing them.

Stephen and Marissa confronted school officials, only for administrators to stand by their actions. Left with no other recourse, they filed a federal lawsuit against the school district for violating their constitutionally protected parental rights.

As the Goldwater Institute notes in its amicus brief filed in the First Circuit, the Supreme Court has consistently—for the last century—held that parents have a fundamental right to control and direct the education, upbringing, and healthcare decisions of their children. But parents cannot exercise this right if the government hides vital information about their kids from them, because they cannot meaningfully decide what school is best for their children.

In Stephen and Marissa’s case, the school’s actions were not an accident or the result of reasoned decision-making based on the circumstances of this specific situation. Instead, the school acted in accordance with a blanket policy that prohibits officials from telling parents that their child is asserting a gender identity different from their biological sex. The policy therefore mandates not just silence, but active concealment, requiring school officials to take affirmative steps to hide vitally essential information from parents.

It’s unacceptable, immoral, and unconstitutional. After all, the Supreme Court has made it clear time and again parental rights are broad and tolerate only those intrusions that are completely necessary to protect the health and safety of children, like laws against child labor.

But across the country, “woke” educators think they know better than parents. Even the New York Times recently admitted that schools are encouraging student gender transitions “without parental consent,” and that “parents of all political persuasions have found themselves unsettled by what schools know and don’t reveal.”

Stephen and Marissa’s situation draws parallels to a similar case in Maine, where Goldwater is standing up for Amber Lavigne’s parental rights after public school officials purposefully concealed information about her 13-year-old daughter’s gender identity. School officials not only hid the fact that Amber’s daughter asked to be referred to by a different name and pronouns, but they also defended a school social worker who gave the child a chest binder and encouraged her not to tell her parents. All across the country, schools across the country are putting themselves between parents and children, attempting to replace parents as the primary raisers of their children.

Public school secrecy goes beyond gender transitions, too. In states like Rhode Island and Texas, Goldwater is helping concerned parents get the answers they deserve after school districts charged them thousands of dollars in public records fees to find out what’s going on in their kids’ schools.

Whether it is matters of health or questions about their children’s curriculum, public school districts should never hide things from parents. That is why the Goldwater Institute is fighting to empower moms and dads, not activist educators, to make decisions that best meet their children’s needs.

You can read Goldwater’s brief here.

Adam Shelton is a Staff Attorney at the Goldwater Institute.



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