Ludlow Public Schools Hit With Lawsuit


Rory DiVenuto, Health & Wellness Editor

On April 12, 2022, four parents of Paul R. Baird Middle School students filed a lawsuit against Ludlow Public Schools. The parents Stephen Foote, Marissa Silvestri, Jonathan Feliciano, and Sandra Salmeron claim the Ludlow School District’s policy concerning transgender students violates the United States and Massachusetts Constitutions. The defendants in the lawsuit are: Ms. Monette, Paul R. Baird Middle School principal; Dr. Gazda, former Ludlow Public Schools superintendent; J. Funke, former Paul R. Baird Middle School librarian; and Ms. Foley, Paul R. Baird Middle School guidance counselor.


According to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, a student who is fourteen years old or older, or who has entered ninth grade, can consent to the disclosure of information concerning their gender identity on their school record. If a student is under the age of fourteen or has not entered the ninth grade, the student’s parents have the authority to decide on disclosures from school records.


Foote and Silverstri’s opposition to the schools began in September 2019, when middle school librarian J. Funke told incoming sixth-grade students they could make videos including their gender identity and pronouns. Foote and Silverstri’s child, eleven at the time, did not ask for parents’ consent before creating the video. Upon complaint, the school told parents the video assignment would not be repeated without consent from the parents of the involved students. 


Documents report on December 14, 2020, Foot and Silverstri’s child informed their teacher they were “experiencing insecurity, low self-esteem, poor self-image, and a perceived lack of popularity,” after coming out to a friend. The child also informed teachers that they felt depressed but unsure of how to address their parents on the matter. The teacher spoke with Silverstri, the two decided to work together, with the parent scheduling therapy for their child and the teacher giving the child craft activities after school. Just a few days later, Silverstri e-mailed the school committee, Ms. Monette, Dr. Gazda, and the child’s teachers, asking them to not discuss mental health or gender with their child. 


On February 28, 2021, the child sent an email to their teachers regarding their name and pronouns, it read as follows:


“Hello everyone, if you are reading this you are either my teacher or guidance counselor. I have an announcement to make and I trust you guys with this information. I am genderqueer. Basically, it means I use any pronouns (other than it/its). This also means I have a name change. My new name will be R****. Please call me by that name. If you deadname me or use any pronouns I am not comfortable with I will politely tell you. I am telling you this because I feel like I can trust you. A list of pronouns you can use are: she/her he/him they/them fae/faerae/aer ve/ver xe/xem ze/zir. I have added a link so you can look at how to say them. Please only use the ones I have listed and not the other ones. I do not like them.”


Teachers went on to use the name and pronouns illustrated by the student in the email, without informing their parents. Due to this, the plaintiffs are requesting several forms of declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as damages.