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NY school district treats girl as boy behind mother's back

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed suit Wednesday against a New York school district after officials there began treating a middle-school girl as a boy without her mother’s knowledge or consent.

Jennifer Vitsaxaki, whom ADF attorneys represent in the lawsuit, withdrew her daughter from Skaneateles Central School District when the 2020-2021 school year concluded once she learned that school employees, acting under district policy, had begun to treat her daughter as a boy. Without notifying Mrs. Vitsaxaki or seeking her consent, employees began to refer to her daughter with a masculine name and third-person plural pronouns inconsistent with her daughter’s sex. By socially transitioning Mrs. Vitsaxaki’s daughter without her consent and by concealing vital information about her daughter’s health and well-being, the district violated Mrs. Vitsaxaki’s fundamental parental rights and her deeply held religious beliefs. The U.S. Constitution protects her right as a parent to make decisions about the upbringing, education, and health care of her children.

“Parents, not the government, have the right to direct the upbringing, education, and health care of their children,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kate Anderson, director of ADF’s Center for Parental Rights. “Parents should be able to drop their kids off at school without fear that school staff will conceal critical information or cut them out of weighty decisions with the potential for life-long impact on their kids. The Skaneateles Central School District policy in this lawsuit betrays the trust of parents like Mrs. Vitsaxaki and violates their fundamental rights. Not only that, it violates Mrs. Vitsaxaki’s right to exercise her Christian faith by raising her daughter consistent with her sincerely held religious beliefs about human nature, gender, and identity, among other topics. Because school officials concealed their actions from Mrs. Vitsaxaki, they prevented her from helping her daughter at a time when she needed her mother’s loving guidance most. Schools shouldn’t hide important information from parents.”

When Mrs. Vitsaxaki confronted school officials, they defended their actions, citing district policy. Mrs. Vitsaxaki felt she had no choice but to pull her daughter from in-person schooling and finish the school year online. During this time, some staff continued to refer to her daughter by a masculine name even after Mrs. Vitsaxaki told them to stop. The following school year, she enrolled her daughter at a private school in Syracuse, 25 miles from their home.

ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit, Vitsaxaki v. Skaneateles Central School District, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, Syracuse Division.

ADF attorneys also recently filed a lawsuit against a Michigan school district for treating a middle-school girl there as a boy without her parents’ knowledge or consent and for also taking steps to conceal its actions from her parents.

“Children need their parents, especially when they are struggling with something as complicated as their identity,” said Anderson. “School policies like the one adopted by the Skaneateles Central School District drive a wedge between parents and their children, trampling parental rights and hurting kids when they need their parents most.”

Raymond J. Dague, one of more than 4,500 attorneys in the ADF Attorney Network, is serving as local counsel on behalf of Mrs. Vitsaxaki.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

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Kate Anderson
Kate Anderson
Senior Counsel, Director of Center for Parental Rights
Kate Anderson serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where she is the director of the Center for Parental Rights.