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Two Massachusetts families have filed a lawsuit in federal court against public school officials in Ludlow for failing to inform them of discussions with their children about “transitioning” from one sex to another. The families are suing for violations of their parental rights stemming from a district policy prohibiting school staff from sharing information with parents about a student’s “discordant gender identity and efforts to promote that identity in school,” according to the Massachusetts Family Institute, which is bringing the suit to court.
According to the lawsuit, new guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) was issued to school districts in 2012 after state law was amended to include gender identity as a protected class, reported The Hill.
“The guidance supplied by the DESE suggests that, in some cases, transgender and gender-nonconforming students may not be open about their gender identity at home because of safety concerns or lack of acceptance. For those reasons, teachers in the state should speak with the students prior to discussing their gender identity with their parents,” said The Hill.
“In the case of one of the families, school officials were actively transitioning their 11-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son without their parents’ knowledge and against their wishes, interfering with the parents’ right to make mental health decisions for their children,” said Andrew Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute. “As we have seen in many instances in recent years, the behavior of some public school officials sends the message that parents do not have the best interest of their children in mind. It assumes that children need to be protected from their parents, instead of by their parents. This needs to stop.”
“Parents Stephen Foote and Marissa Silvestri claim their child was encouraged by Ludlow Public School officials to adopt a new name and different gendered pronouns,” according to Fox News. “Parents Jonathan Feliciano and Sandra Salmeron, who are also involved in the suit, allege the school’s policies to withhold information from parents about children’s gender identities violates their parental and religious rights.”
Foote and Silvestri allege that teachers encouraged their children to adopt new names and pronouns without parental consent, says the suit, filed on Tuesday. They also complain that school officials told their kids they could use the restroom or locker room that matches their gender identity.
The suit alleges that the Ludlow School Committee and certain educators “exceeded the bounds of legitimate pedagogical concerns and usurped the role of [the plaintiffs] and other parents in the Town of Ludlow to direct the education and upbringing of their children, make medical and mental health decisions for their children and to promote and preserve family privacy and integrity.”
The parents’ complaint also alleges that one of the defendants, school counselor Marie-Claire Funke, told students that they were nonbinary and asked to refer to them using nonbinary pronouns. The lawsuit claims that Funke told their students to refer to each other using gender-neutral pronouns and encouraged “children to experiment with alternate gender identities without notifying parents or obtaining parental consent.”
In a statement to MassLive, Ludlow School Committee Chair James Harrington, said, “We want to support our students the best we can. But we should bring parents to the table and hope they respond in a loving and supportive way as well.”