Responding to recent cases first reported by The Maine Wire, several state representatives have introduced bills in the current legislative session to prohibit Maine schools from counseling children on gender changes without parental notification. Rep. Katrina Smith (R-Palermo) is the author of one such bill.
“Shockingly, schools across Maine are currently enacting policies that treat a parent as the secondary authority of their child’s emotional and physical well-being by allowing a school counselor, teacher, or administrator to engage in secret counseling, secret actions, and secret conversations with the children of Maine,” Smith wrote about what prompted her to act.
Her bill, LR 804, would require parental approval of pronoun changes, and she cites instances in Damariscottia’s Great Salt Bay middle school, in Oxford Hills, and in a high school in Winslow where guidance counselors and school staff acted to withhold information about students gender identity changes from parents.
Sen. Lisa Keim (R-Oxford) and Rep. Dick Campbell (R-Orrington) have introduced related bills.
With Republicans in the minority, bills such as Smith’s face significant challenges in getting cleared by Joint Education Committee and reported out to the floor for a vote, but the freshman legislator is undaunted.
“Many people will see this as anti-affirming for trans children, but that is not the intent,” Rep. Smith told The Maine Wire, adding “it is a parental rights bill that seeks to protect parents’ ultimate responsibility for their children.”
Many of her constituents have complained that they feel schools aren’t listening to parents, who are being ignored or even “blacklisted,” she said. Parents who raise objections at school board meetings have been singled out not only in Maine school districts, but also across the country. Another bill, LD 721, seeks to protect “meaningful participation in school board meetings,” which would have seemed absurd had it been raised a decade ago.
The Arizona-based Goldwater Institute is supporting Lincoln County mother Amber Lavigne, who discovered a breast binder in her 13-year old daughter’s room, which had been given to her by a school counselor while keeping the parents in the dark.
“If we as legislators don’t step in, the animosity will only grow,” Smith said. Within the GOP caucus there is renewed focus on education this session because too many parents are feeling shut out, she said.