The board of a Damariscotta school emailed a letter to parents Saturday asserting a legal right for school employees to secretly counsel minor students on sex changes without the knowledge or consent of parents.
The letter comes in response to allegations made at a December school board meeting by Amber Lavigne, the mother of a former Great Salt Bay Community School student. In that meeting, Lavigne alleged that a social worker at the school had given her 13-year-old daughter a breast binder.
Breast binders are devices that compress the appearance of breasts, and they are used as part of social gender transitions. Lavigne’s daughter told her the breast binder was provided to her by a school social worker who asked her to keep it a secret.
The social worker who provided the breast binder to the 13-year-old student is 26-year-old Sam Roy, who has a conditional license to practice social work from the state of Maine.
School board chairman Samuel Belknap III and Superintendent Lynsey Johnston have refused to answer questions regarding the school’s policies and the conduct of its social worker, though Johnston did tell the Maine Wire at a board meeting last week Roy will remain an employee at the school.
Although Lavigne knew that her daughter was seeing a social worker at the school, the school reassigned the girl to Roy without informing her. Lavigne had never met Roy at the time he began counseling her daughter on transitioning to life as a boy.
In the letter, the school board denies any wrongdoing on the part of school staff and defends Roy’s treatment of Lavigne’s daughter. The school board describes Roy’s treatment of the young girl as part of its “ongoing and steadfast commitment to providing all students with safe and equal access to educational opportunities.”
The letter was sent out via email to parents in the district, but it was not sent to Lavigne. The school board accuses Lavigne of “spreading a grossly inaccurate and one-sided story,” but she only learned of the letter attacking her when the Maine Wire reached out for comment.
The school board insists that Maine law allows school social workers to secretly coach students on transitioning genders, citing 22 MRSA Section 1502- Consent of Minors for Health Services and 20-A MRSA §4008- Privileged Communications, though its not clear those statutes have the meaning or effect the school board asserts.
“All of the Board’s policies comply with Maine law, and neither the board nor the school administration are aware of any violation of the policy or law which requires further action at this time,” the letter states.
Despite that claim, Roy’s actions appear to have violated at least two of the school’s policies.
According to policies available on the school’s website, school employees are prohibited from asking students to keep secrets, and any accommodation plans for transgender students are supposed to be discussed with parents and/or guardians.
The policy document states: “Examples of unacceptable conduct by staff members that are expressly prohibited include but are not limited to the following… Asking a student to keep a secret.”
The policy also supports how Lavigne handled the situation. It states: “Students and/or their parents/guardians are strongly encouraged to notify the Principal or Assistant Principal if they believe a teacher or other staff member may be engaging in conduct that violates this policy.”
Roy’s actions also appear to have deviated from the school’s policy regarding accommodations for transgender students.
When a student begins to identify as the opposite gender, the school’s policy says “a plan should be developed by the school, in consultation with the student, parent(s)/guardian(s) and others as appropriate, to address the student’s particular needs.”
The school never consulted with Lavigne to develop such a plan.
School officials have not said why Roy did not follow the school’s policies in his relationship with Lavigne’s daughter.
The Maine Wire has repeatedly requested information from school officials, but they have been unwilling to answer questions, even general questions about the school’s policies.
Since the Maine Wire reported on Lavigne’s public testimony at the school board meeting, Superintendent Johnston and Chairman Belknap have refused to answer any questions about Lavigne’s allegations, and the board now claims it is legally prohibited from answering questions about Roy or the student.
Questions the Maine Wire has posed to Johnston include: Is it the school district’s policy to withhold gender transition information from parents? Does Johnston believe district policies were followed with regard to Lavigne? Will any district personnel face disciplinary action or termination as a result of Roy’s actions with regard to Lavigne’s daughter? Does Johnston approve of how Roy treated Lavigne’s daughter? What is the school’s policy for hiring social workers with conditional licenses?
Every member of the school board has similarly ignored all questions.
Although the school board stated in the most recent letter that state law concerning staff and student privacy prohibits it from commenting to media, Johnston, Belknap, and the school board have also refused to communicate with Lavigne.
In the letter, the school board also said that media reports about the school have “directly” led to bomb threats the school said it has received.