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Mead v. Rockford Public School District

Description:  Dan and Jennifer Mead sued the Rockford Public School District in Michigan after district employees began treating the couple’s middle-school daughter as a boy without their knowledge or consent and taking steps to conceal these actions from the parents.

Dan and Jennifer Mead
Parents Dan and Jennifer Mead
Monday, Dec 18, 2023

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed suit against a Michigan school district Monday on behalf of a mother and father after district employees began treating the couple’s middle-school daughter as a boy without their knowledge or consent and taking steps to conceal these actions from the parents.

Dan and Jennifer Mead withdrew their daughter from the eighth grade at East Rockford Middle School in October 2022 after district employees, acting in compliance with Rockford Public School District policy, treated their daughter as a boy by referring to her by a masculine name and male pronouns without notifying the Meads or seeking their consent. Employees had altered the girl’s official records to remove references to the district’s actions before sending the records home. The Meads only discovered the district’s actions when an employee unintentionally failed to completely alter a report about their daughter before sharing it with them. By concealing this important information, the district violated the Meads’ fundamental parental rights. The U.S. Constitution protects their right as parents to make decisions about the upbringing, education, and health care of their 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. “Schools should never deliberately hide vital information from parents, yet that’s exactly what the Rockford Public School District did. District employees didn’t even notify Dan and Jennifer—let alone seek their consent—before beginning to call their young daughter by a masculine name and male pronouns. Worse, district policy required employees to alter official records to conceal the district’s actions. By intentionally concealing this information from the Meads, the school district violated their constitutionally protected right to make decisions regarding their daughter’s education and wellbeing and destroyed the trust the Mead family had placed in the district and its employees.”

The Meads’ daughter started sixth grade at East Rockford Middle School in August 2020 as an 11-year-old. As the fall semester progressed, she fell behind in her studies, and Jennifer Mead began to communicate regularly with her daughter’s teachers and other district employees about her progress, as well as her wellbeing more generally. Over the next two school years, the Meads’ daughter met regularly with a school counselor, and the Meads placed significant trust in the counselor as well as other district employees. The counselor freely shared information about those meetings with Jennifer, most notably, about changes to the girl’s wellbeing the counselor had perceived.

In May 2022, the Meads’ daughter sent a message to the school counselor asking her to e-mail her teachers and tell them to start calling her by a masculine name. From then until the end of the school year, just a few weeks later, the counselor corresponded multiple times, at length, with Jennifer but did not notify her of her daughter’s request to use a masculine name. When the Meads’ daughter started eighth grade in August of that year—from the very first day—employees began referring to her by the masculine name without the Meads’ knowledge or consent. Within weeks, they were regularly using that masculine name and male pronouns for the Meads’ daughter.

Despite informing the Meads of the details of her discussions with their daughter up to that point, the school counselor chose not to tell them about this request. Indeed, district employees chose to affirmatively conceal this information from the Meads. It wasn’t until Dan Mead met with a district employee in October 2022 to discuss the district’s plan for accommodating his daughter’s recent autism diagnosis that he and his wife realized the district had been making a concerted effort to hide his daughter’s masculine name and pronouns from them. The district had removed references to the masculine name and male pronouns from documents that the Meads would see until one employee inadvertently gave Dan a document that included comments from a teacher using the masculine name and male pronouns to refer to his daughter.

At first, the Meads thought this was a mistake—that another child’s information had been included in their daughter’s documents. But they soon learned the truth. When the Meads asked district employees to refrain from using the masculine name and male pronouns, the district refused to comply with their wishes. District policy required such actions from the employees.

As ADF attorneys explain in the lawsuit, the district’s violations of the Meads’ constitutionally protected parental rights destroyed the Meads’ trust in the counselor, administrators, and other district employees with whom they had shared intimate details about their daughter’s and their own lives. As a result of this breach, the Meads were compelled to withdraw their daughter from the district’s schools.

ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit, Mead v. Rockford Public School District, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, Southern Division.

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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ABOUT Kate Anderson

Kate Anderson serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where she is the director of the Center for Parental Rights. In this role, she leads the team working to ensure schools respect the role of parents in directing the upbringing, education, and health care of their children. In 2023, Anderson, together with allied attorneys, successfully defended parents in Wisconsin, and her team is actively engaged in many other states and courts protecting the fundamental rights of parents. Anderson's work at ADF began in 2015, focusing on protecting the conscience rights of individuals being unjustly compelled to forfeit their beliefs under threat of government retaliation, heavy fines, or other punishment. Prior to joining ADF, Anderson was an associate attorney with Ellis, Li & McKinstry, PLLC, in Seattle, where she litigated both civil and criminal cases. She obtained her law degree magna cum laude in 2009 from Gonzaga University School of Law, where she served on the Gonzaga Law Review . She is admitted to the state bars of Arizona and Washington, the U.S. Supreme Court, and several federal district and appellate courts.