Maine’s Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) sent child protection agents to investigate two mothers who had complained about the social worker at their children’s school, with one of the mother’s stating he had provided her daughter a breast binder in “secret.”
Social worker Samuel Roy, 26, began working at Great Salt Bay Community School (GSBCS) in Damariscotta, Maine in October of 2022. The Maine Wire revealed that Roy only had a conditional license to practice social work but was hired by the school regardless of this.
One mother, Amber Lavigne, filed an official complaint against Roy on December 8 after learning that he had provided her 13-year-old daughter with breast binders and encouraged her to keep the items a secret from her parents.
Breast binders are extremely tight pieces of compression garments intended to flatten the appearance of a girl’s chest. They have been linked to many health risks, including chest and back pain, rib fractures, skin damage, overheating, and breathing problems. The garments are often used by young girls who identify as non-binary or transgender to conceal their secondary sex characteristics.
Four days after Lavigne filed her complaint about Roy and the binder he had provided her daughter, a case worker from Maine’s Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) arrived to initiate an investigation into her for the “allegation” that she had engaged in “Emotional Abuse – Low/Moderate Severity.”
But Lavigne was not the only mother targeted. Another, Amanda Merritt, learned about Lavigne’s situation that same month and decided she did not want her 8-year-old male child to be counseled by Roy. She had been told by Roy that her son was experiencing suicidal ideation, and the counselor presented conflicting statements about the boy’s mental state.
Merritt called school Principal Kim Schaff in December and asked that her son receive a different counselor. Days later, a child welfare case worker from OCFS arrived on Merritt’s doorstep.
The investigations against Lavigne and Merritt have both been declared closed, thereby legally allowing them to speak publicly about their cases. But prior to being cleared of any wrongdoing towards their own children, the mothers feared that “publicly criticizing the school or government officials might lead OCFS to further retaliate by taking unjustified adverse action against them while their cases were open.”
Lavigne and Merritt both believe they were investigated by child protection agents as an act of “politically motivated harassment.” They claim their children’s school district was retaliating against them because they expressed resistance to the “gender-affirming care” being provided to their children, and spoke out against the school’s social worker.
Lavigne also said that the school district had been complicit in what Roy was doing to her daughter, with school staff referring to the child using masculine pronouns without her mother’s knowledge.
Roy had only been seeing the Lavigne’s daughter for two weeks when he gave the girl, who had just turned 13, the breast binder. Lavigne says she was unaware her daughter had switched school social workers in October and had never met Roy before.
Despite working for the school in a social worker capacity, Roy has yet to even receive his Master’s degree from the University of Maine at Orono.
Lavigne first brought the incident to light in mid-December when she went before the school board at a public meeting and explained what had happened to her daughter.
Parental rights advocate Shawn McBreairty posted the video of Lavigne, emotional, sharing her story to a panel of of board officials who seemed uninterested in her.
Speaking before the unmoved school board panel, Lavigne shared: “A social worker at the school encouraged a student to keep a secret from her parents,” she said. “This is the very definition of child predatory sexual grooming,” she said. “Predators work to gain a victims’ trust by driving a wedge between them and their parents.”
The impassioned mother also noted that in addition to laws and policies being broken, so had been parental trust she should have had in her daughter’s school. She added, “No other parent should have to go through the trauma and distress this has caused my family.”
Following Lavigne’s testimony, fourth-grade teacher Chris Coleman portrayed her sincere concerns and distress as an “attack on students.” Coleman accused Lavigne of putting “transgender students’” safety at risk, and suggested Lavigne had “decided that our transgender students do not deserve to feel safe at school.”
Shortly after the December school board meeting, The Maine Wire editor Steve Robinson, who has been extensively reporting on the case for months, revealed that the school had begun selectively deleting their social media activity as well as information on their website. In particular, a section of the school’s website that provided contact information for staff members was scrubbed following the new reports. It was also reported that both Coleman and Roy had deleted their social media accounts following the public reports and national attention on the case.
While Great Salt Bay Community School has yet to take disciplinary action against Roy or any other involved parties, their public policy alleges that staff are prohibited from “asking a student to keep a secret.”
The school also has a conflicting policy regarding the accommodations for “transgender students,” which explicitly stated that any plans developed by the school must be done in consultation with a student’s parents or guardians.
Five days after Lavigne appeared at the board meeting, the Superintendent of the District Lynsey Johnston and board chair Samuel Belknap II issued a statement to the community suggesting the concerned parent had been divisive.
Pieces from the statement read: “The Board is aware that rumors and allegations have been published and republished on various social media platforms relating to this issue … While it is unfortunate that some individuals have sought to use this issue to try and divide our community, as a Board, we are committed not only to following Maine law but also honoring our school’s core values, and focusing on treating each other with dignity and respect.”
During another school board meeting held on January 11, Belknap, who can been seen in recordings of board meetings appearing indifferent and impatient with members of the public, announced that “no public speaker would be allowed to complain about or make allegations against any school employee.” Belknap threatened to involve law enforcement if anyone violated his terms.
The school board went on to issue an email citing two laws to seemingly justify staff having private communications with minors, including one pertaining to Consent of Minors for Health Services and one about Privileged Communications.
In the letter, the school board also claimed that public knowledge of what had happened to Lavigne and Merritt’s children had “directly” led to bomb threats against the school. The first bomb threat was allegedly made on December 21, 2022, a week after Lavigne gave her testimony at a public school board meeting.
In the beginning of February, the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute announced that they were representing Lavigne and issued a letter of demand to the school board on her behalf. Goldwater attorney Adam Shelton asserts that not only are the actions of the school immoral but also unconstitutional.
Shelton is demanding that the school board investigate Roy’s actions and is calling on the school “to inform parents of any decision that affects their children’s mental health or physical wellbeing,” including any attempts to “socially transition” children or, more specifically, provide them with chest binders.
The Maine Wire submitted a Freedom of Access Act (FOAA) request for public records to the school district in order to seek documents “that might shed light on how the school handled an apparent violation of its policies.”
The request reportedly “sought records from Oct. 1 to Dec. 18 that mentioned ‘binder’ or concerned Lavigne’s allegations.” Superintendent Johnston exploited the FOAA’s fee provision and asked for exorbitant fees totaling $1,075 in exchange for the information.
The Main Wire explained that this tactic “is especially common” when it is believed that the journalists seeking information have “an adversarial viewpoint or when disclosing the records would prove inconvenient or embarrassing for a government agency.”
After a more narrowed request, which only cost $150, The Maine Wire obtained 189 pages of documents from Johnston. The documents revealed that school board members, led by Belknap, “took steps to avoid communicating with reporters, with Lavigne, or in a format that would be available to journalists seeking public records after Lavigne expressed her concerns privately.”
Lavigne has expressed that she believes she was investigated by child welfare officers “at the direction of school officials” due to her filed complaint against Roy. Parental rights advocates share concerns about this trend in public education to criminalize parents who are opposed to private and gender-related counseling.
Following the national media attention on the case and the existence of cases similar to Lavigne and her daughter’s, Representative Katrina Smith (R-Palermo) introduced a bill which would “require parental approval before school employees begin social transitioning the gender of a student.” The bill is named LD 678, also known as “An Act to Require Parental Approval for Public School Employees to Use a Name or Pronoun Other than a Child’s Given Name or Pronoun Corresponding to the Gender on the Child’s Birth Certificate.”
Lawmakers in Maine are also considering whether to pass a major policy change which applies to the Maine Department of Education known as Chapter 117, a controversial rule that, if passed, will allow school social workers to provide minors with “psychosocial evaluation, including diagnosis and treatment of mental illness and emotional disorders.”
The news out of Maine bears some similarities to the horrific ordeal of a Virginia family reported by Reduxx last year.
Sage Lily Blair, a teen girl from the small community of Appomattox, Virginia, was taken away from her parents after school counselors testified that their alleged “misgendering” of their daughter amounted to child abuse. At the time, Sage had just been located by the FBI after going missing for over a week, having run away from home after her school secretly encouraged her to “socially transition.” While away from her family, Sage had been subjected to sexual abuse.
But despite the teen’s terrifying experience, a public defender fought to have Sage removed from her parent’s care and placed into the boy’s ward of a children’s home in Maryland after she was located — Something which would lead Sage to be sexually abused again while in state care.
Sage’s mother, Michele, provided Reduxx with a number of documents related to the ordeal, some of which attempt to paint their lack of “gender affirmation” as child abuse. Sage would later tell her mother that the lawyer had coached her to say that her parents were abusive because they wouldn’t accept her as a transgender boy.
The young girl would ultimately be kept away from her loving family for almost one year before they were reunited, her mother fighting day in and day out to get her daughter back home. Sage has since “detransitioned,” meaning she no longer identifies as a boy.
In response to the experience of the Blair family, Republican state representative Dave LaRock proposed a bill known as Sage’s Law that would require Virginia school officials to notify parents if their child identifies as transgender in school.
Under the law, which was approved by the Senate committee in February, school staff in Virginia who have direct contact with a student claiming a gender identity would be required to contact at least one of their parents to inquire if they are aware of the student’s mental state and to ask if the parent wishes to obtain counseling for them.
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