Jennifer Vitsaxaki filed a complaint last week against the Skaneateles Central School District in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, Syracuse Division.
According to the complaint, school officials didn’t inform Vitsaxaki that her daughter —identified as “Jane” in court documents — was experiencing bullying or that they were treating her daughter “as though she were a boy by referring to her with a boy’s name” and using “they/them” pronouns.
“Not one School District employee notified Mrs. Vitsaxaki or sought her consent before socially transitioning her daughter. Worse, although those employees knew about the School District’s actions, they told Mrs. Vitsaxaki nothing,” the complaint argued.
The lawsuit claims “Jane” continued to suffer from depression and anxiety during this time until her mother took her out of the public school and enrolled her in a private school in Syracuse, with her daughter’s condition improving soon after.
This improvement has included the daughter no longer wishing to identify as a boy or use plural pronouns and overall better mental health.
The new school is 25 miles away from the Vitsaxaki home, according to the complaint, and currently costs $12,660 a year in tuition fees, with the lawsuit calling these “the financial harms that the School District’s actions caused to Mrs. Vitsaxaki.”
Vitsaxaki is being represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal group that has won multiple religious freedom cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Parents, not the government, have the right to direct the upbringing, education, and health care of their children,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kate Anderson in a statement.
In July 2015, the New York State Education Department issued guidance regarding the creation of “safe and supportive” schools for “transgender and gender nonconforming students.”
“The person best situated to determine a student’s gender identity is the individual student,” claimed the guidance. “In the case of very young students not yet able to advocate for themselves, the request to respect and affirm a student’s identity will likely come from the student’s parent or guardian.”
The guidance notes that while school officials “should work closely with the student and family” regarding a “transgender status,” there are cases when “students do not want their parents to know about their transgender status.”
“These situations must be addressed on a case-by-case basis and will require schools to balance the goal of supporting the student with the requirement that parents be kept informed about their children,” continued the 2015 document.
According to an updated guidance released last year, a student is “not required to obtain parental/guardian consent or a court-ordered name and/or gender change before being addressed by their affirmed name and pronouns.” Also, the state instructs schools only to involve parents if “given permission by the student.”
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