Amber Lavigne (pictured above) was helping her daughter clean her room last December and discovered that the girl and her school had been keeping a secret from her: the school had been transitioning her daughter, including giving her a male name and using male pronouns.
"A school social worker there gave her 13-year-old daughter a chest binder* and told the daughter that she didn't need to tell her mom about it and that he wasn't going to tell her mom about it afterwards," Shelton explains.
After a back and forth with Great Salt Bay Community School in Damariscotta, Maine, the school said it was their policy to keep such information from parents. Shelton contends that response from the school is indicative that the school feels "they are in the best position to make decisions for children, irrespective of the parents, and without even informing the parents that they're making those decisions."
Lavigne and Shelton are suing the school, asking for the court to declare Lavigne's parental rights require that she should at least be told of any decision made by a school that directly affects the mental health or physical wellbeing of her child – including the decision to give her daughter a chest binder and the decision to secretly transition her daughter. Both actions, says the attorney, violated Amber's constitutionally protected parental rights.
"The school violated Amber's 14th Amendment rights to control and direct the education, upbringing, and health care of her children," Shelton emphasizes.
The attorney is warning parents that policies to keep information about a child's health and sexual development from them are much more common than one might think.
"It doesn't seem like this was an idea that the school counselor first brought up to her daughter," Shelton suggests, "but … an idea that was encouraged and supported by seemingly the entire school system and kept from Amber."
The lawsuit names as defendants two social workers employed by Great Salt Bay Community Schools (Samuel Roy and Jessica Berk), principal Kim Schaff, superintendent Lynsey Johnston, and the members of the school district board. Samuel Roy, according to the lawsuit, gave the chest binder to Lavigne's 13-year-old daughter "in his office and told [her] that he was not going to tell [her] parents about the chest binder, and [that she] need not do so either."
* A chest binder is a tight vest that flattens the appearance of breasts to make a girl look more like a boy. Advocates for sex-change surgeries as a treatment for gender dysphoria see chest binders as a stepping stone to eventual double mastectomies, a surgery that removes healthy breast tissue.