Maine School District Gave Breast-Binder to 13-Year-Old Girl, Told Her Not to Tell Her Mother: Goldwater Institute Lawsuit

Evan Poellinger | October 30, 2023
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The Goldwater Institute is pursuing litigation on behalf of a mother in Maine who alleges that a social worker at the Great Salt Bay School District supplied her daughter with a breast-binder and began socially transitioning her by using male pronouns, without her mother’s knowledge.

Amber Lavigne discovered the breast-binder while cleaning her daughter’s room in December 2022, prompting her to confront school officials. However, according to the Goldwater Institute’s case backgrounder “officials at the Great Salt Bay Community School insist their actions were not just lawful, but even required by state law.”

Furthermore, soon after Lavigne made the decision to pull her daughter out of the district to homeschool her, the state targeted her by launching an investigation of her fitness as a mother, the document says:

“[A]lmost immediately afterwards, on December 12, 2022, Plaintiff was visited by agents of the Maine Office of Child and Family Services. These agents informed Plaintiff that they had received an anonymous report that Plaintiff was emotionally abusive towards [her daughter]. The investigation was completed on January 13, 2023, with a finding that the information obtained by the investigation did not support a finding of neglect or abuse.”

Lavigne is now suing the district for their alleged violation of her parental rights, which are protected under the 14th Amendment.

The Media Research Center (MRC) spoke with Adam Shelton, a staff attorney for the Goldwater Institute, about the case and its ramifications. “Amber reached out to us,” Shelton told MRC as he described how Goldwater became involved in the case.  Shelton went on to detail the voluminous precedent establishing parental rights:

“The Supreme Court has held for a century now that parents have a fundamental right to control and direct the education and upbringing of their children. The case where the court first held that this right existed was Meyer v. Nebraska where the court held that it was unconstitutional for the court to ban the teaching of certain foreign languages including German.

“Two years later the court reiterated this ruling in Pierce v. Society of Sisters where it held that Oregon could not constitutionally ban parents from sending their children to private school because a parent has this fundamental right to decide how best to educate their child.”

“That’s what we’re arguing here in this case, that a parent’s right to educate their child, to upbring their child, necessarily includes the right to be informed about decisions that are being made and actions that are being taken by school officials that will directly affect the mental health or physical well-being of the child,” Shelton concluded.

Shelton also noted that the nature of this case was, in some ways, unprecedented, compared to similar instances of social transitioning:

“This is the first time that we’re aware of a case involving the actual giving of a breast-binder to a child, instead of just the social transitioning, which happened here as well.”

Shelton concluded by stressing the extreme significance of the case for parents across the country.

“Our main goal with this case is to ensure that all parents have the right to control and direct the education and upbringing of their children protected,” Sheldon told MRC. If these parents’ rights are not protected, he warned, “the schools are empowered to hide from them information about decisions that they’re making or actions that they’re taking that will directly affect the mental health or physical well-being of the child.”