A subcommittee in the Virginia House of Delegates voted Monday to advance a bill requiring schoolteachers and school staff to notify parents about their children’s purported gender transitions, partially in response to the horrific sex-trafficking story of Sage, a girl whose high school hid her transgender identity from her mother.
HB 2432, “Sage’s law,” requires any school professional who reasonably suspects a student is at risk of suicide or “is self-identifying as a gender different from the student’s biological sex” to contact at least one of the student’s parents, to notify the parent, and to offer counseling.
The law would allow school staff to avoid this contact only if the student faces an “imminent risk of suicide” as a result of parental abuse or neglect, in which case staff must contact social services.
The law also prohibits any school counselor from hiding gender-identity changes from a parent and from encouraging or forcing children to do so.
Del. Dave LaRock, R-Loudoun County, sponsored the bill and invited testimony from Michele (whose last name was withheld to protect Sage’s privacy], the biological grandmother of Sage, who Michele adopted after the death of her son, Sage’s father. Sage became a victim of sex trafficking after her high school hid the girl’s change in gender identity from her mother. Michele testified Monday.
“Because the high school hid Sage’s change in gender identification from Sage’s mother, Michele, Michele learned of Sage’s transitioning to a new gender identity the same evening that Sage ran off and into [the] dark and destructive world of human trafficking,” LaRock told The Daily Signal on Monday.
“When Sage ‘changed her gender identity’, without her parent’s knowledge, Sage started receiving communications with ‘creepy old dudes’, as she put it,” LaRock noted. “One of the expert witnesses in the hearing this morning confirms that online predators do target social media accounts of children who list themselves as ‘ftm’ or ‘female to male.'”
“Parents know their children best,” the legislator noted. “When schools drive a wedge between parents and students, and hide these life-changing conversations and decisions from parents, important aspects of the child’s overall well-being are not taken into account by those involved in the decision. Sage’s ‘gender-identity transition’ and subsequent introduction into sex trafficking took place quickly after she moved to a new school, where staff affirmed Sage’s new gender without knowing important aspects of her fragile condition.”
At the hearing, LaRock said, “Sage’s law is an anti-trafficking bill, because it ensures that parents are not kept in the dark about their children.”
In her testimony, Michele said that her daughter suffered from depression and anxiety, “at times very severe.” (Watch the video of her testimony here.)
Sage said all the girls at her high school “were bi, trans, lesbian, emo, and she wanted to wear boys clothes and be emo,” Michele recounted. By “emo,” she referred to a subculture associated with the “emo” style of rock music resembling punk but having more complex arrangements and lyrics. “Because I saw it as just a phase, it was fine with me. But at school, she told them something different. She was now a boy named Draco with male pronouns.”
Michele said Sage was “terribly bullied. Boys followed her, touched her, threatened violence and rape. Something happened in the boys’ bathroom.”
That night, Michele found a hall pass with the name “Draco,” and Sage told her about her identity as transgender. She then ran away.
After a nine-day search, the FBI found Sage in Baltimore. “My baby had been lured online, sex trafficked [into Washington,] D.C., then Maryland,” Michele recalled. “She was locked in a room, drugged, gang raped, and brutalized by countless men.”
A Maryland lawyer tried to keep Sage from her mother, even calling the school’s counselors to testify against Michele. The lawyer hid Michele’s letters from Sage and “told my precious child I didn’t want her anymore,” the mother testified.
Sage eventually ran away from the shelter and was discovered in Texas. “She had been drugged, raped, beaten, and exploited,” Michele said. A judge ruled in favor of Michele, but ordered that Sage spend time in a mental health facility, where the therapist pressured her to get her breasts removed. She resisted.
“Sage said she doesn’t know who she was back then,” Michele added. “She wasn’t a boy. She just wanted to have friends. But her school, the judge, the attorney, and the doctor were all blinded by ideology.”
“If I had known, this would be a much different story,” the distraught mother said.
Alex Nester, an investigative fellow for the national grassroots parental rights group Parents Defending Education, told The Daily Signal that Sage’s story “sounded like a case that we’ve seen time and time again of schools usurping the power of parents to direct the upbringing and care of children. That is directly in contradiction with Virginia state law and various federal laws.”
She noted that the state’s Republican governor, Glenn Youngkin, “didn’t necessarily win because of the cultural side of the gender-ideology issues. He won because parents in Virginia felt excluded from their children’s education.”
Erin Brewer, the author of the children’s book “Always Erin,” an autobiography about her own gender confusion at a young age, told The Daily Signal that as a former “trans” kid, she was grateful her school did not affirm her gender confusion.
“I started identifying as a boy in 1st grade after a brutal sexual assault,” Brewer wrote in a statement Monday. “Instead of encouraging my gender confusion and hiding it from my mother, my teacher contacted my mother and got permission for me to be assessed by the school psychologist,” who developed a treatment plan that did not involve “affirming” a transgender identity.
“I am grateful I wasn’t affirmed by teachers,” Brewer added. “Instead, I got the help I needed to understand that my gender dysphoria was a result of the sexual assault, not because I was inherently flawed or born in the wrong body.”
“Parents should never be deceived by schools,” she insisted. “Schools should never undermine parents. It is unconscionable that we need Sage’s Law, but it is clear that schools need clear rules about their role—to teach children, not to parent them.”
The K-12 subcommittee voted along party lines, 5-3, to pass Sage’s law to the full Education Committee for a Wednesday morning hearing, LaRock’s office told The Daily Signal.
Del. Danica Roem, D-Prince William County, a male who “identifies” as female, expressed opposition to the bill. Roem warned that “even more children will be put in danger if the government interjects itself into the most personal of family discussions like this, regardless of whether it’s safe for the child to be out.” He did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment to further explain this claim.
LaRock responded to Roem’s claim in comments to The Daily Signal.
“None of the testimony at today’s hearing presented any documented evidence to support the claim that involving parents makes children less safe. None,” the bill’s sponsor said. “Parents who are trans and parents of trans children have reached out to thank me for presenting this bill and looking out for them and their children, which is very encouraging.”
“Sage’s story, and that of many other parents and students, provides evidence that the ‘government interjecting itself’ actually describes how some school personnel have been pushing children into experimentation with gender, and into these life-changing decisions, while hiding the situation from parents,” LaRock added. “Input from parents could better address trauma, learning disabilities, bullying, peer pressure, or other issues that may lead students towards gender experimentation, before the situation deteriorates to the child running away from home and into the clutches of predators.”
Appomattox County High School, the school Sage attended, did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment on her story.
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