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Verdicts & Settlements

Maine Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Claiming School District Aided Student’s Gender Transition Without Notifying Mother

— May 8, 2024

A federal judge found that the student’s mother had failed to establish that school officials had any official policy, or unofficial practice, of encouraging students to conceal their gender identity and expression from parents.

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Maine woman who claims that Great Salt Bay Community School officials encouraged her daughter’s gender transition without notifying or consulting the girl’s parents.

According to ABC News, U.S. District Judge John Levy acknowledged in his ruling that mothers, including plaintiff Amber Lavigne, “might expect school officials to keep her informed about how her child is navigating matters related to gender identity,” but found that the plaintiff in this particular case failed to establish that she suffered any cognizable damages for which the district might be held liable.

Lavigne, notes The Bangor Daily News, filed her complaint against the Great Salt Bay Community School Board last year. Attorneys for Lavigne argued that the school violated her right to “control and direct” her child’s upbringing when it provided the girl with a chest binder and began using the child’s preferred name and pronouns.

The lawsuit challenged what Lavigne described as an unofficial “withholding policy,” whereby the district engaged in a “regular pattern, custom and practice of withholding information from parents” if and when education officials believe that a child might identify as transgender.

LGBTQ flag. Image via Quote Catalog, Flickr, CC BY 2.0, no changes.

In some cases, Lavigne said, the school “[encouraged] children to conceal information [from their parents].”

However, the Great Salt Bay Community School Board said that its guidelines “provide for parental involvement through every step of the school’s support plans for transgender students,” and told that court that internal conduct policies broadly “[prohibit] staff from encouraging students to keep secrets.”

And, late last week, U.S. District Judge John Levy sided with the school, saying that Lavigne had—at most—identified “one occasion where a school employee ‘actively withheld’ information from a parent,” and failed to establish that such withholding was a prevailing or common practice.

Levy also noted that a principal and the district superintendent had “expressed sympathy […] and concern that this information had been withheld and concealed.”

“Her complaint … fails to plead facts which would, if proven, establish municipal liability under Monell and its progeny based on an unwritten custom, ratification by a final policymaker, or failure to train,” Levy wrote.

A lawyer for Great Salt Bay Community School said they are pleased that the court ruled on the actual merits of the case.

“Despite there having been a lot of misinformation about what occurred in this case, we are pleased that, after the School District’s first opportunity to respond to the Plaintiff’s lawsuit in court, the Court determined that there was no claim here,” the district said in a statement.


Judge dismisses lawsuit by mother who said school hid teen’s gender expression

Judge dismisses Maine mother’s lawsuit against school over child’s gender transition

Judge dismisses mom’s lawsuit against Maine school over her child’s gender transition

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