A Massachusetts middle school hid an 11-year-old girl’s request to assume a different name and gender from her parents.
Stephen Foote and Marissa Silvestri have filed a lawsuit against their children’s school district and officials. The parents, who have two children enrolled in Ludlow Public Schools, claim officials encouraged their daughter to use new pronouns and a new name without their consent.
Incoming sixth graders were told to submit videos that included their gender identity and preferred pronouns.
“Foote’s and Silvestri’s 11-year-old daughter, B.F., was among the students given that assignment,” their lawyer explained in a filing with a Mass. District Court. “The videos of their children were created without the parents’ knowledge or consent and it remains unknown how these videos were used or who was allowed to view them.”
The parents believe the video assignment had been given to previous students for years but were unable to verify it because the school did not notify parents about the video assignments. They learned of the video assignment and their daughter’s and (perhaps) son’s participation in it only after other parents discovered their children had participated. The parents objected to the video, and the school reportedly promised it would not be assigned again without notifying parents first.
Around December 14, 2020, B.F. (their 11-year-old sixth-grade student at Baird Middle School) asked to meet with her teacher, Bonnie Manchester, after school. The next day, their daughter reportedly met virtually with Ms. Manchester and told her that she was experiencing insecurity. According to the lawsuit, she also expressed feeling low self-esteem, poor self-image and a perceived lack of popularity. The daughter informed her teacher she had told a friend that she likes girls, according to the suit.
The 11-year-old informed Manchester she felt depressed and needed help but was unsure how to ask her parents about getting help. Her teacher reportedly offered to call her parents and the sixth grader agreed, allegedly telling Manchester she was relieved and grateful the teacher was calling her parents because she was unsure how to broach the subject.
Manchester informed Mrs. Silvestri of the conversation with her daughter, detailing concerns about her feeling depressed. The teacher also told Silvestri her daughter had confided she might be attracted to the same sex and was having issues with self-image. Silvestri responded she had recently observed something troubling her daughter and expressed gratitude for the teacher contacting her, legal documents state.
In a December 2020 email, the mother wrote school officials she and the girl’s father were informed some of B’s (their daughter) teachers were concerned with her mental health.
“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,” Silvestri wrote. “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 that school officials who received the email disregarded the parents’ instructions regarding their 11-year-old daughter’s mental health care. They claim their daughter has changed her preferred name at least twice since then without their knowledge or consent.
In a February 2021, the daughter sent an email to administrators and teachers at Baird Middle School, including Manchester.
“Hello everyone, If you are reading this you are either my teacher or guidance counselor,” B.F. wrote. “I have an announcement to make and I trust you guys with this information. I am genderqueer. Basically, it means I use any pronouns (other than it/its).” The 11-year-old added that meant she had changed her name, informing them her new name was R****, asking them to please call her by that name. “If you deadname me or use any pronouns I am not comfortable with I will politely tell you. I am telling you this because I feel like I can trust you.”
“A list of pronouns you can use are: she/her he/him they/them fae/faerae/aer ve/ver xe/xem ze/zir,” the sixth grader continued. “I have added a link so you can look at how to say them. Please only use the ones I have listed and not the other ones.”
“I do not like them,” the daughter concluded before thanking them and signing her email as R*** Foote.
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