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Federal Judge Dismisses Massachusetts Parents “Gender Identity” Lawsuit Against Ludlow Schools

— December 29, 2022

While the judge did dismiss the lawsuit, he criticized the school district’s policy of withholding students’ gender identities from their own parents.

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Massachusetts parents who claim that their local school district encouraged students to change their names and pronouns.

According to FOX News, U.S. District Judge Mark Mastroianni found that the lawsuit, filed against Ludlow Public Schools, failed to meet the so-called “shocks-the-conscience” standard for due process claims under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.

However, while Mastroianni did dismiss the lawsuit, he criticized the school district for its policy of withholding students’ gender identities.

In his ruling, Mastroianni said that the district has an “imperfect” and “flawed” policy that does not meet state guidance relating to the rights of transgender students.

Fox News notes that the lawsuit was filed by parents Stephen Foote and Marissa Silvestri, who alleged that that their child was encouraged by Ludlow Public Schools officials to change their name, pronoun, and gender identity without first consulting them.

A gavel. Image via Wikimedia Commons via Flickr/user: Brian Turner. (CCA-BY-2.0).

“[The Ludlow School Committee and other defendants] 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 lawsuit claimed.

Mastroianni, who was appointed to his position by former President Barack Obama, said that he was somewhat apprehensive of the district’s policies.

Nevertheless, he found that Ludlow’s rules and guidance do not necessarily “shock the moral conscience,” noting that Massachusetts state law “recognizes gender identity as a personal characteristic deserving of protection from discrimination” and does not “provide exceptions to permit parents to override a school’s decision to support students who identify as transgender or gender nonconforming.”

“Addressing a person using their preferred name and pronouns simply accords the person the basic level of respect expected in a civil society generally, and, more specifically, in Massachusetts public schools where discrimination on the basis of gender identity is not permitted,” Mastroianni wrote.

However, Mastroianni did find that state law does not require that schools keep students’ revised gender identities from their parents.

In his mid-December ruling, the judge wrote that “it is disconcerting that school administrators or a school committee adopted and implemented a policy requiring school staff to actively hide information from parents about something of importance regarding their child.”

“Students and parents would almost certainly be better served by a more thoughtful policy that facilitated a supportive and safe disclosure by the student, with support and education available for students and parents, as needed and when accepted,” Mastroianni added.


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