A Damariscotta public school social worker who attempted to secretly transition a 13-year-old female student into a boy without her mother’s knowledge will remain an employee of the Great Salt Bay Community School.
AOS 93 Superintendent Lynsey Johnston confirmed to the Maine Wire at a school board meeting Wednesday night that the social worker, 26-year-old Samuel E. Roy, will continue to practice social work within the school, which serves kindergarten through grade eight.
“He is still an employee, yes,” she said.
Roy, who has a conditional license to practice social work, provided the young girl in question with a breast binder in October without informing the girl’s mother.
Breast binders are devices used to compress the appearance of a female’s breasts as part of a social gender transition. They are typically considered a prelude to double mastectomies, a procedure in which healthy breast tissue is removed. Even when worn properly, the garments can cause health problems.
Amber Lavigne, the girl’s mother, was shocked when she discovered the breast binder in her daughter’s bedroom. She subsequently learned that the school had assigned Roy to work with her daughter, and that Roy had provided the binder with a few weeks of meeting her daughter.
Roy has yet to graduate with his master’s degree from the University of Maine at Orono, and school district officials haven’t said what the policy is for hiring conditionally licensed social workers.
Roy has not responded to multiple inquiries seeking comment about Lavigne’s allegations.
Damariscotta residents at the meeting questioned how the AOS 93 school board has handled the controversy.
Members of the school board, including Chairman Samuel Belknap III and district Superintendent Lynsey Johnston, have refused to comment on the matter beyond a terse public statement published on the school’s website.
That statement came only after the controversy had received national attention, and it did not address any questions from parents or the media.
Johnston’s remark after the meeting is the first time any AOS 93 school official has spoken publicly about Roy and the consequences – or lack thereof – he might face for his actions.
Johnston had previously declined to respond to half a dozen emails asking about Roy’s employment status.
Johnston and other school officials still have yet to say publicly whether they believe Roy’s actions violated the district’s public policies on staff conduct, and no school official has said Roy was wrong to secretly counsel Lavigne’s daughter into a gender transition.
By encouraging Lavigne’s daughter to begin a gender transition without informing Lavigne, Roy appears to have violated at least two district policies.
According to publicly available district policies, school personnel are supposed to call a meeting of stakeholders when students express symptoms of gender dysphoria or who show signs of gender confusion. In those meetings, multiple school employees and the student’s parents or guardians are supposed to develop a plan best suited for the student.
That meeting never happened with Lavigne’s daughter, and it’s not clear why. School officials haven’t said anything that might clarify the issue.
The other policy Roy appears to have violated involves asking students to keep secrets.
According to the policy, school employees are prohibited from asking students to keep secrets.
But that’s exactly what Roy asked of Lavigne’s daughter, according to Lavigne.
As with the first policy, school officials and members of the school board have refused to say whether they believe Roy’s actions violated district policies.
Notably, no school official affiliated with AOS 93 has denied or disputed any aspect of Lavigne’s allegation against Roy.
Although Lavigne knew that her daughter was seeing a school-provided social worker, she was never informed that her daughter had been reassigned from the original social worker, Jessica A. Allen-Fumarola, to Roy. When she discovered the breast binder, she’d never met or had a conversation with Roy.
Rather than publicly address Lavigne’s allegations and the potential policy violations, or responded to questions for Damariscotta residents, the school board and school officials have ignored questions, attacked members of the media, and even limited access to contact information for board members.
After the Maine Wire reported exclusively on Lavigne’s allegations, the school board removed contact information for Roy and other school employees from the school’s website, and some staff members began deleting social media accounts.
At the board meeting Wednesday night, a handful of school employees were joined by roughly a dozen concerned citizens, most of them older women.
Addressing the crowd, with a uniformed police officer at the back of the room, Belknap said at the start of the meeting that no public speaker would be allowed to complain about or make allegations against any school employee.
It’s unclear whether Belknap’s pronouncement was intended to prevent parents like Lavigne and other would-be whistleblowers from exposing potential school employee misconduct at a public hearing.
Belknap assured attendees that, should anyone violate his rules or should the meeting grow unruly, he was ready to call on the police officer to escort offenders out of the meeting.
“I may request law enforcement help to restore order,” he said.
That turned out to be unnecessary, as the meeting moved peacefully and without issue, with just four attendees opting to address the board – all of whom expressed concern over the board’s handling of Roy’s conduct.
Rep. Katrina Smith (R-Palermo) was the only state elected official who spoke at the meeting.
Smith said expressing concern over how the board handled Roy’s treatment of Lavigne’s daughter wasn’t a question of LGBT rights or policies, but a question of whether school employees should keep secrets from parents.
“I call on the board to discipline the offending employee and apologize to Mrs. Lavigne,” she said.
Smith added that Maine’s anti-conversion therapy law, which was passed in the last legislature, should apply to Roy’s interactions with the young girl.
Ed Thelander, a retired Navy SEAL who ran unsuccessfully for Maine’s First Congressional District last year, also spoke at the meeting. He said he’d put three kids through the Great Salt Bay Community School and found the affair extremely disturbing.
In brief comments to the board, he asked several questions.
“All the parents just want to know is, at what point did the school know about it? Is that okay? Is that authorized? It’s mindboggling. Who paid for it? Who authorized the chest binder?” he asked.
The school board did not answer Thelander’s questions Wednesday night, has not answered those questions previously, and has not given any indication that they intend to answer those questions.
Sandy Day, a retired former public-school teacher who lives in the area, also rose to comment.
“Never in my career as an educator of over 43 years did we ever leave a parent out of a decision,” said Day. “In my opinion, parents should never be left out of decisions about a child’s mental health.”
In particular, she said that parents should always be alerted when the school changes a child’s therapist or social worker.
“No decisions to change sex of the child should be made without the involvement of the parent,” she said.
She said children could suffer lifelong harm from decisions to transition genders made by unqualified professionals in secret.
Lucas Tate, a softspoken Damariscotta resident, said he was at the meeting as concerned taxpayer.
“I think there’s some information that needs to be released to the public,” said Tate.
He said the school needs to say what their vetting process is for bringing people into the school and whether the social worker was supervised.
As with the multiplicity of other questions raised by what happened at Great Salt Bay Community School between Roy and Lavigne’s daughter, those questions remain unanswered.
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