Reported by LEON WOLF | April 17, 2022
Massachusetts parents Stephen Foote and Marissa Silvestri have filed suit against their children’s school district and a number of school district officials, claiming that the school officials encouraged their child to use new pronouns and a new name without their consent, according to a report from Fox News. According to the complaint, school officials initially contacted the plaintiffs in December of 2020 after their daughter reported complaints of feeling depressed and of “experiencing insecurity, low self-esteem, poor self-image, and a perceived lack of popularity.” Their daughter also reportedly expressed to school officials that she was experiencing same-sex attraction. The parents expressed thankfulness to school officials for alerting them, and engaged mental health professionals to counsel their daughter.
The parents reportedly then sent an email to teachers, stating, “I appreciate your concern and would like to let you know that her father and I will be getting her the professional help she needs at this time. With that being said, we request that you do not have any private conversations with B. in regards to this matter. Please allow us to address this as a family and with the proper professionals.”
The parents allege in their complaint that this directive was ignored by school officials, who permitted her to change her used name “at least twice” between December 2020 and June 2021, which they only discovered when teachers inadvertently sent email communications to the parents regarding a homework assignment for their child that did not use her given name. The complaint also alleges that the school counselor “in direct contravention to their explicit instructions,” continued to counsel their daughter regarding her alleged “discordant gender identity,” and affirmed this “discordant identity and name.”
The complaint alleges further that in February 2021, the plaintiffs’ daughter sent an email to school officials informing them that she was “genderqueer,” preferred to use a new name, and that “A list of pronouns you can use are: she/her he/him they/them fae/faerae/aer ve/ver xe/xem ze/zir. I have added a link so you can look at how to say them.” The complaint alleges that the school counselor responded to this email by directing other school officals that the parents were not to be notified of this and that school officials should comply with this request. The complaint further alleges that, after this point, school officials summarily disregarded the parents’ rights to direct the mental health care of their daughter, and repeatedly affirmed that their daughter, who was struggling with feelings of unpopularity, was “brave and awesome” for declaring that she was “genderqueer” and wanted to be called by a new name.
In a statement to MassLive about the lawsuit, Ludlow School Committee Chair claimed that the school was acting with the students’ best interest in mind: “It’s a slippery slope. 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.”