Lawsuit alleges Ludlow school talked with children about gender identity

The lawsuit is asking the school district to notify parents if a student opens up about their gender identity. Right now, they said, this is not the policy.
Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 6:05 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 19, 2022 at 7:24 PM EDT
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LUDLOW, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - A federal lawsuit has been filed by four parents against school officials and staff at Baird Middle School in Ludlow for talking to their children about their gender identities without their consent.

The lawsuit is asking the school district to notify parents if a student opens up about their gender identity. Right now, they said, this is not the policy.

Two sets of parents filed a lawsuit in federal court and claimed that Paul R. Baird Middle School did not keep them in the loop when discussing their children’s gender identities, including requests to call them by different names and using different pronouns.

“The school is actively hiding information about how students are self-identifying what names they want to be used as,” said Andrew Beckwith, the attorney representing the families and president of the Massachusetts Family Institute.

The filed suit against the interim and former Ludlow school superintendents, the school committee, and Baird school staff. According to the lawsuit obtained by Western Mass News:

“Defendants’ protocol and practice of concealing from parents information related to their children’s gender identity and efforts to affirm a discordant student gender identity at school violates parents’ fundamental rights.”

Also included in the court documents was an email one of the students sent to teachers and staff.

The email read, in part:

“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). This also means I have a name change. My new name will be R****.”

It went on to say:

“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.”

Beckwith says the middle school went ahead with the name change.

“In this case, the school did it not only without the parent’s permission, but without the parents even knowing about it and when the parents did discover it and told the school that they were not to change the kid’s names, the school kept doing it,” Beckwith added.

Western Mass News is getting answers. We searched the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website for its guidance to public schools on this topic. We found the following:

Transgender and gender-nonconforming students may decide to discuss and express their gender identity openly and may decide when, with whom, and how much to share private information....

….If a student is under 14 and is not yet in the ninth grade, the student’s parent (alone) has the authority to decide on disclosures and other student record matters.

Beckwith said the students are under 14. We asked what the plaintiffs want to see happen.

“We’d love to see a court tell the school that they have to stop this policy, that they have to keep parents involved and informed in their children’s lives,” Beckwith noted.

We reached out to the Ludlow School Committee Chairman Chip Harrington about the situation. We received a statement that read, in part:

“This is still very early in this process, we have not yet been served with the document. I imagine we will learn more as the week progresses.”

We also reached out to the interim Ludlow Public Schools superintendent multiple times, but she has not yet gotten back to us.