A federal judge tossed a lawsuit from two Massachusetts parents who took a public school district to task for hiding their children’s gender transitions.
Earlier this year, Stephen Foote and Marissa Silvestri filed suit against staff members at Paul R. Baird Middle School, the elected school committee and the town of Ludlow, Massachusetts.
As described in the filing, the couple’s 11-year-old daughter wrote an email to school staff asking to be addressed by a pantheon of pronouns:
“I am genderqueer. … My new name will be R**** … If you deadname me or use any pronouns I am uncomfortable with I will politely tell you … A list of pronouns you can use are: she/her he/him they/them fae/faerae/aer ve/ver xe/xem ze/zir. … Please only use the ones I have listed and not the other ones. I do not like them.”
In response, the school counselor instructed staff to refer to the girl by her newly chosen male name, but to conceal the transition from her parents by using “she/her pronouns with her parents and in written emails/letters home.”
The girl’s 12-year-old brother soon asked school staff to use female pronouns for him, and the staff responded in the same way.
Bonnie Manchester, the girl’s teacher, was uncomfortable with the secrecy and forwarded a relevant email string to the girl’s parents. Principal Stacy Monette then placed Manchester on leave before firing her.
In the lawsuit filed April 12, the parents allege the school “impermissibly inserted themselves into the private realm” of the family and interfered with their parental rights, according to a New York Post report.
They allege school officials called their children by their newly chosen pronouns and had private conversations with their children about gender in spite of the parent’s request not to.
The communication between school staff and the children shows the school is “hiding it from parents intentionally,” said Andrew Beckwith, an attorney for the parents.
“The term groomer is being used a lot today,” Beckwith told the Post. “Imagine what goes through any parent’s mind when you have some other adult talking to your kid about sexuality – and saying we’re going to hide this conversation from your parents.”
“Despite the parents specifically telling the school, ‘We’re getting mental health treatment for our daughter, and we don’t want the school interfering with that,’ staffers continued to have clandestine conversations,” Beckwith charged.
Yet on Dec. 14, U.S. District Judge Mark Mastroianni, an Obama appointee, dismissed the parent’s case. He criticized Ludlow Public Schools officials for hiding the children’s gender transitions from their parents, but said “the officials’ actions do not ‘shock the conscience.’”
In an interview with the National Catholic Register, Vernadette Broyles, president and founder of the Child and Parental Rights Campaign who represented Stephen Foote in the lawsuit, cited a a similar case to show the danger of such reckless behavior by school staff.
A 12-year-old biological female in Clay County, Florida, tried to hang herself in a school bathroom in January 2022 after experiencing emotional turmoil over gender identity brought on by bullying from fellow students, Broyles recounted. She then warned of the potentially tragic consequences of a school authority figure fomenting dissonance between parents and children.
In Ludlow, after the dismissal of the lawsuit, Foote and Silvestri are reportedly weighing an appeal.