A Lincoln County woman has appealed a federal judge’s decision to dismiss her lawsuit accusing school officials of failing to communicate that her child was using a chest binder and using different pronouns than the ones assigned at birth.

The notice of appeal to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston was filed Monday on behalf of Amber Lavigne, of Newcastle.

School-Transgender Student-Lawsuit-Maine

Amber Lavigne at her home in Newcastle in March 2023. She is appealing a federal judge’s dismissal of her lawsuit against the Great Salt Bay Community School. The suit accuses school officials of encouraging her teen’s gender expression by providing a chest binder and using a new name and pronouns, without consulting her parents. Stephen Davis Phillips/Goldwater Institute via AP

Lavigne first sued officials at Great Salt Bay Community School in April 2023, claiming that they violated her due process rights by withholding details about her 13-year-old child’s gender transition. The suit named the school board, superintendent, principal and two social workers at the Damariscotta school.

The case was taken on by the Goldwater Institute, an Arizona-based conservative advocacy organization that has used individual suits to push broader debate about gender expression in schools.

“Across the country, activist educators who think they know best are putting themselves between parents and children and attempting to replace parents as the primary raisers of their children,” the organization wrote in an email announcing the appeal. “In Amber’s case, school officials defended the counselor’s actions and even ‘socially transitioned’ her daughter without telling the child’s mom and dad.”

In her original complaint, Lavigne said she unenrolled her daughter from the school in December 2022 and opted to homeschool the child instead. Around that time, Lavigne found a chest binder in her child’s room that her child said they had received from a social worker at the school. Lavigne also learned her child had been going by a different name and using different pronouns at school.


Lavigne met with Superintendent Lynsey Johnston and the school principal days later and also spoke about the matter at a Dec. 14, 2022, school board meeting.

School officials have consistently maintained that their policies are in accordance with state laws that provide equal access to education for all students, regardless of gender identity, and a right to privacy regardless of age.

This month, now-retired Chief U.S. District Judge Jon Levy agreed and dismissed the case.

“It is understandable that a parent, such as Lavigne, might expect school officials to keep her informed about how her child is navigating matters related to gender identity at school,” Levy wrote in the ruling. “Her complaint, however, fails to plead facts which would, if proven, establish municipal liability … based on an unwritten custom, ratification by a final policymaker, or failure to train.”

Lawsuits against public schools and other municipal entities can only proceed to trial in U.S. District Court if they show clearly unconstitutional policies, or a failure to train employees on policies that are legal.

Lavigne repeatedly tried to argue the school had an unconstitutional policy “of intentionally withholding and concealing certain information from parents,” the judge wrote, but he didn’t believe that was the case after reviewing all of the evidence, including the school’s actual policies and guidelines for transgender students.

Because the case was covered extensively – and elevated by conservative media – school staff members faced threats of violence.

Attorney Susan Weidner, who represented the school district, said this month she hoped the dismissal would put to rest “misinformation” surrounding the case.

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