Authored by Brad Jones via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
A California school district that was sued over allegations teachers and staff at Buena Vista Middle School in Salinas, Calif., coached an 11-year-old girl to socially transition to a male gender identity settled with the girl and her mother for $100,000.
The lawsuit, filed on June 14 last year, named Spreckels Union School District, the principal at the school, and two teachers as defendants.
Jessica Konen, the child’s mother, came forward after a leaked audio recording revealed the two teachers telling other educators about how they secretly recruited students into the school’s LGBT club at a California Teachers Association weekend conference in Palm Springs in October 2021. The CTA event was billed as the “2021 LGBTQ+ Issues Conference, Beyond the Binary: Identity & Imagining Possibilities.” The two teachers were later suspended and no longer work in the district.
Ms. Konen told The Epoch Times she’s relieved that a settlement has finally been reached.
“It’s a massive victory across America for myself, for my daughter, and for other parents experiencing similar situations,” she said. “Our voices made a difference.”
While she is grateful to the Center for American Liberty for taking on the pro-bono case, she said the battle for parental rights has only begun.
“I just feel social transitioning done in secrecy is the real evil. We need to get rid of it, period. So, the fight must continue,” she said.
Her daughter, Alicia Konen, who is now 16, echoed her mom’s sentiments, saying she’s ready to put the experience, which she described as “evil” and “horrible,” behind her.
According to the Center for American Liberty and allegations in the lawsuit, Alicia was recruited to join an “Equality Club,” where she was taught about bisexuality, transgender identities, and other LGBT concepts when she was in the sixth grade.
Alicia began to use a male name and pronouns and wore a chest binder under boy’s clothes.
School staff finally called a meeting the last day before winter break during Alicia's seventh grade year and demanded that Ms. Konen refer to her daughter by a male name and male pronouns, she said.
“I was definitely intimidated,” she said.
Ms. Konen recalls feeling awkward and stressed when she was tagging Alicia’s Christmas gifts.
She wanted to be supportive to her daughter but wasn’t ready to call her by a male name and pronouns, so she wrote “Baby” and “Sweetheart” instead.
“I was an emotional wreck trying to process everything. I was scared to mess up or to use the wrong pronouns,” she said. “I never used the male pronouns, and I never used the name.”
Ms. Konen warned parents to “be vigilant,” talk to teachers, and pay attention to what’s happening at local school board meetings.
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to show your values and your opinions,” she said.
She also urged parents to get more engaged in their children’s lives.
“We need to fight for our kids, because if we don't fight for our kids, they’ll fight for our kids,” she said. “Be close to your child, because somebody wants to get closer.”
'I Wanted to Tell My Mom'
Alicia’s social gender transition began when she went to see a school counselor because she was feeling depressed, she told The Epoch Times.
“I was told by the counselor—it was brought up that I was sad because I wasn’t who I was supposed to be, and that’s kind of where it all started,” she said.
Alicia was “pulled away” from her schoolwork, and the counselor who she said was working with the school to “socially transition kids,” put her on a Gender Support Plan, known as a GSP, which required school staff to use a male name and pronouns when referring to her, and to allow her to use the unisex teachers’ restroom instead of the girl’s facilities.
“I was advised by the school not to tell my mom, and I was given articles on how to hide a social transition from my mom,” she said. “I was extremely confused, and honestly very scared. I wanted to tell my mom, and continually said I wanted to tell her, but I was encouraged to keep it a secret. ... The school said that my mother wouldn’t support me.”
But, throughout the ordeal which lasted for more than a year, Alicia believed her mom would support her no matter what.
Alicia said she has felt better about herself since she left middle school and entered high school where she is “actually able to focus on my academics.”
And she is comfortable with her gender.
“I am 1,000 percent a girl. I am Alicia. That is who I am, and no one can ever change that,” she said. “I feel free finally. I feel like I’m not under control by anybody. I can finally move forward with my life and be happy.”
The Konens hope their high-profile case will draw attention and encourage other families to challenge state and local school board policies that exclude parents from their children’s lives.
“I think that throughout the country there will be a lot more coming forward, realizing that they were never alone,” Ms. Konen said. “There are people out there who are hurt.”
The settlement means they’re both able to talk more freely about their experience and have considered writing a book.
“It is a complete passion of mine to continue to spread awareness,” she said.
Alicia said she feels “extremely bad,” for other children who were socially transitioned at school.
“That’s one of the main reasons I wanted to come out and speak about this case, because I want to be a voice for the people who feel like they don’t have a voice.”
Ms. Konen said the school staff took advantage of her daughter’s young mind and vulnerable state, which she called “a form of brainwashing,” and didn’t tell her that Alicia was having suicidal thoughts.
If parents are kept in the dark about their children’s problems, they won’t be able to help support them or get them the therapy they need, she said.
“It’s extremely dangerous,” Ms. Konen said, “What if something happens that is irreversible? ... If a child only has the support of schools, what happens when they go home? What happens when they have those bad days? What happens when they're confused at home?”
The best way to prevent youth suicides is for school staff and parents to work together, Ms. Konen said.
“If everyone’s included, then that is in the best interest of the child—not hiding it,” she said. “The secret stuff has to go.”
A spokesperson for the Spreckels Union School District was not immediately available for comment.
'Hard to Put a Dollar Value on It'
Eric Sell, a civil rights attorney at the Center for American Liberty who represented the Konens, told The Epoch Times the school district settled the case based on the underlying allegations in the lawsuit but hasn’t admitted any fault or liability.
“What happened to Alicia, Jessica is hard to quantify. It’s hard to put a dollar value on it,” he said.
But the $100,000 settlement will serve as a deterrent for other school districts that continue “to propagate these policies and keep parents in the dark,” Mr. Sell said. “As far as we are aware, this is the first time a school district has had to pay a family money for secretly transitioning their kid behind their backs.”
The Center for American liberty is interested in such cases because it has seen a systematic erosion of parental rights, “particularly by government actors and schools,” he said.
The problem is “really apparent” in California in public schools where gender ideology is “infecting schools” and “pushing kids towards dangerous decisions and dangerous life paths,” he said.
Children, who may or may not fully weigh all the consequences of their actions, are making decisions that can potentially lead to medicalization or surgery and irreversible damage to their own bodies, he said.
“We’re seeing so much of this that ... the Center for American Liberty has decided to focus some of its time and resources on combating this specific problem,” Mr. Sell said.
He said "it's absurd" that California Attorney General Rob Bonta has sued Chino Valley Unified School District over its parental notification policy requiring school staff to inform parents within a few days if their child changes his or her gender identity at school.
“The Supreme Court has consistently held that parents have the right to direct the upbringing and education of their children,” states the Center for American Liberty on its website.
“This includes the right to have a say in whether their children’s school socially transitions them to a different gender. Parents are denied that right when schools think they know better than parents how to raise their children and intentionally hide information from moms and dads.”