A mother has sued the Central Lincoln County School System leaders and employees in federal court, saying they supported her child’s gender expression and did not inform the parents.

The lawsuit on behalf of Amber Lavigne says the Damariscotta-based district violated Lavigne’s parental rights to direct and control the upbringing of her child by intentionally withholding information about her child’s decision to change gender identity at school.

According to the suit, a school employee provided Lavigne’s 13-year-old child with a chest binder – a compression undergarment worn to flatten breasts – and staff referred to Lavigne’s child with pronouns different than those aligned with their biological sex and a name different from that given at birth, all while intentionally keeping that information from Lavigne. The lawsuit alleges that was a violation of Lavigne’s constitutional rights.

“Defendants intentionally concealed this information – information that any conscientious parent would rightly want to know about her child – from her, thereby purposely depriving her of the capacity to meaningfully make decisions regarding the care and upbringing of” the child, the suit says.

The case is part of a broader cultural clash over how schools handle issues around gender identity. Districts across the state and nation are facing pressure to ban library books and remove classroom posters about different gender identities, as well as material regarding sexuality. And many districts are struggling with the complex legal question raised in the new lawsuit: What, if anything, should educators do if a student changes their gender identity at school and the parents don’t know?

The allegations that triggered the lawsuit filed this week also led to repeated anonymous threats sent to Central Lincoln County School System employees in recent months. Messages called them child abusers who had “forfeited” their “right to life” and threatened violence, leading to school being shut down at least twice. Police did not respond to questions about the ongoing investigation Wednesday.


The suit was filed Tuesday and names the Great Salt Bay Community School Board, Central Lincoln County School System Superintendent Lynsey Johnston, community school Principal Kim Schaff and two social workers – Samuel Roy and Jessica Berk.

It seeks an order forcing the school district to share information with parents in the future and to no longer use different names or pronouns without a parent’s consent. It also seeks to recover legal fees and unspecified damages in the amount incurred by the plaintiff as a result of removing her child from the school district.

The lawsuit does not provide any proof that the school district or any of its employees provided Lavigne’s child with a chest binder. Lavigne declined a request for an interview.

None of the defendants responded to requests to discuss the suit Wednesday, but district officials have previously said they cannot provide information about confidential communications between students and social workers.

Conflicts such as the one in the Central Lincoln County district pit parents’ rights to raise their children against the privacy rights of those children. Schools are caught in the middle.

It comes as a movement advocating for parents’ rights in education is gaining traction nationwide.



The parents’ rights movement is loosely centered on parents’ constitutional right under the 14th amendment to raise their children and direct their children’s education. Advocates say that because of this right they should be informed if children request to change their gender-identifying pronouns at school, among other things.

But the issue is tricky because while courts have ruled that parents have a constitutional right to raise their children, courts also have deemed that children have their own constitutional rights as autonomous individuals, giving them rights to privacy and confidentiality.

Advocates for the privacy of children say it should be up to the child to decide when and how to take the sometimes difficult step of telling their parents about gender identity or sexuality. Schools should be a safe space for young people to be themselves, they argue.

School districts around the state and country are often stuck trying to figure out where parents’ rights end and children’s begin when it comes to student gender identity and dealing with the fallout of their decisions.

Because decisions on parents’ rights are made district by district, the state is left with a patchwork of policies, some leaning more toward protecting parents’ rights, and some toward protecting the rights of children.


Portland Public Schools, Maine’s largest district, leans toward protecting children’s rights.

“In the event that a student and their parent or legal guardian do not agree with regard to the student’s gender identity or gender expression, the school shall abide by the wishes of the student with regard to their gender identity and gender expression while at school,” district policy states.

But when the Oxford Hills area school district tried to pass a similar policy, two school board members who supported it were recalled.

Legal experts on the matter say that they expect parents’ rights policies to remain disjointed as long as there is not a clear legal framework for how to handle the matter and districts and states continue to make independent decisions.

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