A Michigan couple is suing their daughter's former school district after they claim to have found out that school officials had secretly transitioned their middle school daughter without their knowledge or consent, according to the lawsuit.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys filed suit against the Rockford Public School District on behalf of Dan and Jennifer Mead in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan's Southern Division after they discovered district employees began treating the couple’s middle-school daughter as a boy, actively taking steps to conceal these actions from them, they allege in the lawsuit.
The Mead's allege employees in the district altered their daughter’s official records to remove references to the district's actions before sending the records home, which was only discovered after an employee unintentionally failed to completely alter a report about their daughter before sharing it with them.
Rockford Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Steve Matthews declined to provide comment to Fox News Digital, citing an obligation to continue to protect the privacy of the Mead family and their child.
"We will respectfully decline to comment and let the legal process run its course," he told Fox News Digital.
The Meads’ daughter started sixth grade at East Rockford Middle School in August 2020, but as the semester progressed, her parents said she began to struggle academically. Before they found out their daughter had socially transitioned, the Meads started working with the school to help figure out how to best help their daughter academically after she had received an autism diagnosis, placing their trust in a school counselor who met with their daughter over the next two years. The counselor freely shared information about those meetings with them, including changes to their daughter’s well-being, the couple says.
"Most days she was pretty sad and we were feeling a little bit desperate," Jennifer said. "What can we do to help our daughter? So I was working with the counselor, who was then explaining all of this information to the teacher, sharing information from them, confidential information. So the counselor and I had a relationship and I trusted her."
In May 2022, the Meads’ daughter sent a message to the school counselor asking her to email her teachers and tell them to start calling her by a masculine name. Starting then, through the end of the school year a few weeks later, the counselor corresponded multiple times with Jennifer about her daughter, but allegedly failed to mention that their daughter had requested teachers use a masculine name and pronouns. When the Meads’ daughter started eighth grade, they claim district employees began referring to her by the masculine name without the Meads’ knowledge or consent.
"This social transition went on for several months before the Meads realized what was happening," ADF Senior Counsel and director of ADF’s Center for Parental Rights Kate Anderson said. "They found out when the counselor went through to change documents, she missed one and so one went home with the male name and male pronouns."
Even though the counselor had given regular updates to Jennifer about her daughter, the district deliberately chose not to tell them about this request, they allege. They thought this information was a mistake until they realized the truth and immediately asked district employees to refrain from using the masculine name and male pronouns, which they said employees refused to comply with. When the Meads confronted the school about their actions, Anderson said district officials "just threw up their hands and said it was their policy to do so," which she said is "something we're seeing around the country."
"I think a court's going to step in and stop that because schools shouldn't be making these decisions for parents," she said. "You really see with the Meads' daughter how that [policy] affected her and they can speak to that."
Once Dan and Jennifer believed their daughter had been actively "encouraged" to hide what was going on with her from her parents, they immediately pulled her out of the district.
"This was hurting our daughter, without this critical information, we were not able to help her like we should have been able to," Jennifer said. "We know our daughter best, we love our daughter more than anyone and that was very important for us to know that, so that we could help her thrive and they were hiding this from us. This is critical information, this is life-changing information that they were keeping from us intentionally."
Anderson said it is "absolutely unconstitutional" for a school to hide information from parents about their child.
"Parents have the fundamental freedom to direct the upbringing [and] education of their children, and the Supreme Court has repeatedly confirmed that," she said. "That means that parents need the information to be able to do that well."
"This involves upbringing, education, medical decision-making down the road because a child who is socially transitioned at school is more likely to seek other medical interventions down the road that are going to have lifelong consequences," she added.
The Meads' daughter "was not doing well while the school was hiding this information and then when her parents were able to step in and work with her and walk alongside her, she was able to deal with the things she was truly feeling … and she's now in a much, much better place, which is why parents need to be involved in these decisions," Anderson said.
Since she has left the district, Dan and Jennifer said their daughter is doing great and no longer identifies as a boy.
"She knows her identity, she knows that she is female, she knows the truth and she was confused because of her autism," Jennifer explained. "She struggled with finding her identity in that, so she is on the road to healing, we are on the road to healing as a family."
"We have our daughter back," Dan added.
"She is safe, she trusts us," Jennifer said. "I see her smile. I see her laugh. I see her joyful. Her grades are up. She enjoys life and it's so wonderful to see because she was miserable almost every single day to the point where she said, 'Mom, I don't see the purpose anymore,' and when we pulled her out of school and loved her and kept her safe and told her the truth of who she is and who she was meant to be, it's like a weight was lifted off of her shoulders because she didn't have to deal with this and didn't have to carry this anxiety with her every day."
Jennifer said the lawsuit they are bringing against the school district serves as a reminder to parents around the country that they have rights and deserve to know what exactly is going on with their children.
"Schools have no right to make critical decisions for the well-being of my child or anybody else's child. We know our children best," she said. "We love our children more than anyone will."