In a recent legal battle that has garnered nationwide attention, Dan and Jennifer Mead of Michigan are taking a stand against what they perceive as an infringement on their parental rights. The Meads filed a lawsuit against the Rockford Public School District and its Board of Education, alleging that the district’s policies not only violated their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights but also kept them in the dark regarding their daughter’s treatment.

The heart of the matter lies in the district’s approach to their autistic teenage daughter’s gender identity. Their daughter, referred to as G.M. in court documents, identifies as male despite being biologically female. What has left the Meads outraged is the district’s use of male pronouns and a different name for their daughter without their consent or notification.

“Until the fall of 2022, Dan and Jennifer Mead had no reason to suspect the Rockford Public School District would conceal from them important information about the education and health of their daughter,” the lawsuit alleges. It was only after they received a report from a school neuropsychologist that included a masculine name that they realized something was amiss.

The district’s policy, as outlined in the lawsuit, involves referring to students by names and pronouns associated with the opposite sex without parental notification or consent, and actively concealing these actions from parents. This lack of transparency has understandably left the Meads feeling betrayed and concerned about their daughter’s well-being.

According to Vincent Wagner, an attorney representing the Meads, “No one with the school district told them that the school district had begun to treat her as a boy by calling her a masculine name and by male pronouns.” This startling revelation came after years of their daughter attending the Rockford Public School District, where she began seeing counselor Erin Cole in August 2020.

Jennifer Mead and Cole maintained an “open correspondence” throughout the year, discussing vital details about G.M.’s education, health, and well-being, primarily through email exchanges. However, it wasn’t until January 2022 that the Meads learned of their daughter’s autism spectrum disorder diagnosis, along with generalized anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder.

Hoping to ensure that their daughter received appropriate support, the Meads shared the report with Cole and the school district. In response, Cole promised to meet with other district staff to develop a support plan for G.M.

The turning point came on May 4, 2022, when G.M. directly messaged Cole through a school-specific computer program, requesting that her teachers address her by a male name. This message marked a pivotal moment in the controversy. Cole continued to use only “G.M.” and she/her pronouns when addressing the Meads, failing to mention the message she had received from the student.

As G.M. progressed to the eighth grade, neuropsychologist Heather Slater began keeping a handwritten ‘Case Activity Log,’ using both feminine and masculine names and marking “F but Trans” at the top of the sheet. The lawsuit alleges that district employees started consistently using the masculine name and male pronouns to refer to G.M. in September.

Despite a subsequent report containing comments from a teacher referring to an “F.M.” and Jennifer Mead’s inquiry about a potential mistake, it was only later that the shocking truth emerged. Slater admitted to forgetting to edit the teacher’s comments, citing it as “policy for legal documents.”

The school district’s website indicates that they have adopted a nonmandatory guidance document from the Michigan Department of Education regarding the treatment of students identifying with the opposite sex.

In response to the district’s actions, the Meads decided to withdraw their daughter from public school and began homeschooling on October 24, 2022. In their lawsuit, they are seeking nominal damages, compensatory damages, legal fees, and court costs.

This legal battle has ignited a debate about parental rights, gender identity, and transparency in the education system. While some argue that schools should respect a student’s chosen gender identity, others contend that parental involvement and notification should always be prioritized. As this case unfolds, it will undoubtedly continue to raise important questions about the role of parents in their children’s education and well-being.