Parents suing school after children were encouraged to explore their gender identity and keep it from their parents

Four Massachusetts parents claim middle school staff encouraged their children to make a gender transition and keep it from their parents.

The suit against the Ludlow School Committee was filed April 12 by the Massachusetts Family Institute and the Child and Parental Rights Campaign. Parents Stephen Foote, Marissa Silvestri, Jonathan Feliciano and Sandra Salmeronare are listed as plaintiffs.

They allege teachers and other school officials at Baird Middle School encouraged their children to experiment with gender identity, suggesting they adopt new names and pronouns.

Foote and Silvestrie’s children, identified as B.F. and G.F., went to Baird Middle School counselor Marie-Claire Foley to discuss gender identity topics, according to the suit. Foley referred them to then-librarian Jordan Funke, who identifies as “nonbinary.” 

Funke, the suit says, would regularly meet with students one-on-one “to discuss gender identity issues, provide resources promoting exploration of alternate gender identities, and otherwise encourage children to experiment with alternate gender identities without notifying parents or obtaining parental consent.”

Foote and Silvestri allege that Funke encouraged B.F. to withhold gender information from them. B.F. then requested teachers and students address her by a new name and use masculine pronouns.

The parents also say Funke met one-on-one with their other child, G.F, and they allege Funke encouraged both students to transition and not notify their parents.

Following B.F.’s stated desire to transition, counselor Foley allegedly told B.F. to use the bathroom that reflects her gender identity. 

Baird Middle School’s position on gender identity and parental transparency reflects a 2012 law which makes gender identity a protected class. The Massachusetts Board of Education then broadened its anti-discriminatory standards to accommodate the law.

However, the school’s actions would seem to contradict the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) guidance on the age at which a parent must be involved in student disclosures: “If a student is under 14 and is not yet in the ninth grade, the student’s parent (alone) has the authority to decide on disclosures and other student record matters.”

Foote and Silvestri believe Ludlow School Committee has violated their “sincerely held religious beliefs.” They also believe the school violated state and federal privacy laws.

“This lawsuit is about protecting the right of parents to raise their children without the interference of government officials,” Massachusetts Family Institute president Andrew Beckwith told the Boston Globe. “By deliberately circumventing the authority of parents over the mental health and religious beliefs of their children, activists at the Ludlow schools are violating time-honored rights guaranteed under the US Constitution and the Massachusetts Constitution.”