A national conservative group on Monday accused the Damariscotta-area school district of violating parental rights and threatened legal action in response to a mother’s complaint that her 13-year-old child was counseled about gender identity without her knowledge.

The Goldwater Institute, an Arizona-based advocacy organization, sent a complaint to Lincoln County Central School District Board Chairman Samuel Belknap on Monday alleging that the district violated the constitutional rights of parent Amber Lavigne by not disclosing to her information about her child and her child’s gender identity.

The complaint asks that the district mandate “the involvement of parents in all decisions by school officials that affect the mental or physical health or well-being of their students,” in order to prevent the violation of parents’ rights and “the possibility of a lawsuit seeking to enforce those rights.”

Goldwater staff attorney Adam Shelton did not directly respond to a question about whether the advocacy organization is planning to sue the school district.

“We’re evaluating our legal options to best protect Amber’s rights,” Shelton said.

District Superintendent Lynsey Johnston did not respond to a question Monday about how, if at all, the district plans to respond to Goldwater’s complaint.


The complaint comes about one month after Lavigne publicly accused a school counselor of providing her child with a chest binder – an item similar to a sports bra or undershirt used to flatten breasts. Lavigne made the accusation in an emotional statement to the school board and said she felt like she had been wrongly shut out of an important decision in her child’s life. Lavigne has since removed her child from the school district.

Following Lavigne’s statement, an anonymous email threatened violence against the counselor, school, and district staff and leadership, shutting down a district school for two days in recent months.

Lavigne did not respond to a request for comment on Monday and previously declined to be interviewed by the Press Herald about the statement she made to the school board. Johnston previously said the school district cannot provide information regarding confidential communications between a student and a social worker.

The threat of a lawsuit comes as schools across the state and the nation are being caught in conflicts over gender and sexuality. Experts say there are no clear legal guidelines about what a school district’s employees should do if a child identifies as a different gender in school and their parents are not aware.

The courts have weighed the rights of parents and children on a variety of issues from religion in schools to labor laws, ruling both that parents have a constitutional right to raise their children and be in charge of their education, and that children have constitutional rights as individuals. However, neither of those rights is absolute so it is not legally clear where the rights of parents end and children begin and vice-versa.

Policies directing how employees should respond if a student changes their gender identity at school and their parents don’t know vary significantly in public schools around the state and the country.


Some experts and students say it’s important for transgender or nonbinary students to feel safe at school and not fear being “outed” to their parents before they are ready. Others argue gender and sexuality are issues for families to handle and schools should defer to the rights of parents.

A Portland Public School District policy says that the district will let a student decide if and how they want to share their gender identity with parents and guardians.

But when board members in the Oxford Hills School District tried to pass a policy that would direct school employees to use a student’s chosen gender identity and only share gender identity information with a student’s parent with student approval, community members organized a recall election and two board members lost their posts.

Goldwater has taken legal action on a number of similar issues regarding parents rights, a catchall term for the decisions parents get to make about their children’s lives, and other issues including school choice, private property rights and free speech.

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