A mother is suing the small Spreckels Union School District in California for allegedly convincing her 11-year-old child to change their gender identity.
In the lawsuit, the mother, Jessica Konen, accuses two teachers, Lori Caldeira and Kelly Baraki, of engaging in “extreme and outrageous conduct with malice and the intention of causing, or reckless disregard for the probability of causing, emotional distress.”
Note: Konen’s child was assigned female at birth but it is not clear what pronouns they would prefer, so this article uses they/them pronouns.
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It claims Caldeira and Baraki, who ran the school’s LGBTQ equality club, “would coach” students on how to embody certain identities and as such “planted the seed” in Konen’s child’s mind that they are bisexual and transgender.
The complaint says the teachers subsequently concealed the student’s changed gender identity from Konen and “attempted to deceive” her by using the child’s birth name and she/her pronouns when speaking with her. It also claims the teachers instructed the student to keep their identity a secret from their mother.
According to the complaint, the meetings of the LGBTQ group, known as the UBU (You Be You) club, led Konen’s child to explore their gender identity and begin using a new name and pronouns – though the mother claims that the child is back to using their birth name and she/her pronouns.
Eventually, the teachers had a meeting with Konen and her child to discuss their gender identity, and in response, Konen said she did her best to support her child. But then new information came to light.
Audio leaked of a talk Baraki and Caldeira gave at the California Teachers Association’s annual LGBTQ+ Issues Conference, in which they spoke about how they ran the LGBTQ group without students’ parents finding out.
Abigail Shrier, the transphobic author of the 2020 book Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, wrote an article about the leaked audio entitled, “How Activist Teachers Recruit Kids.”
Shrier’s article went viral on conservative social media. Four days after she published it, readers complained to the school district, and the district placed the teachers on administrative leave, also opening an investigation into their actions. It also suspended the LGBTQ group.
In the article, Shrier mentions that Caldeira said she didn’t keep names of her attendees in order to help protect the children’s identities from potentially disapproving and anti-LGBTQ parents.
Shrier also says that the teachers said they used their abilities to monitor student web searches in order to invite students who might have questions about their gender or sexual identities. The teachers said that they were just making a joke.
Caldeira and Baraki, said that their school principal – who is a named defendant in Konen’s lawsuit – knew about the UBU club and its purpose and even attended some of the meetings.
California law doesn’t prevent teachers from approaching students about joining LGBTQ clubs, and state law bars teachers from discussing students’ LGBTQ identities with parents without the child’s permission.
Though monitoring students’ search terms is controversial, it’s a technical feature widely available to teachers, especially as virtual and online learning increased during the pandemic.
Nevertheless, all of this information inspired Konen to take legal action against the school.
The California Teachers Association spoke out against Konen’s lawsuit, which she filed with help from the ultra-conservative Center for American Liberty.
“We are concerned about a political climate right now in which outside political forces fuel chaos and misinformation and seek to divide parents, educators and school communities for their own political gain, which is evident in this complaint,” said spokesperson Lisa Gardiner.
“The Center for American Liberty is concerned with pushing its own political agenda through litigation and has filed multiple lawsuits against various school districts and communities.”