Story at a glance
- A mother in California claims teachers at her daughter’s former school “manipulated” her into changing her gender identity.
- The complaint seeks action against two teachers who at a California Teachers Association conference in November said they had “totally stalked” their students online to recruit them for their LGBTQ+ club.
- The California Teachers Association has called out the Center for American Liberty for setting out to “divide parents, educators and school communities for their own political gain.”
A California mother has said teachers at her daughter’s former middle school “manipulated” her daughter into changing her gender identity, according to a claim filed this month against the school district and two of its two teachers.
In a claim filed Jan. 19 by the Center for American Liberty on behalf of Jessica Konen, it’s alleged that the Spreckels Union School District in Northern California led Konen’s 11-year-old daughter to change her gender identity without her mother’s knowledge.
The complaint seeks to take legal action against two teachers at Buena Vista Middle School — at which Konen’s daughter is a former student — who ran the school’s LGBTQ+ club, You Be You, or UBU.
The teachers, Lori Caldera and Kelly Baraki, made headlines in November when author Abigail Shrier obtained an audio recording of a presentation given by the pair at a California Teachers Association conference, where they spoke about the challenges of running LGBTQ+ clubs in communities with conservative parents.
Caldera and Baraki said at the time they had implemented more unorthodox methods in recruiting students to their own club, including tracking their activity online.
“When we were doing our virtual learning — we totally stalked what they were doing on Google, when they weren’t doing schoolwork,” Caldeira said at the conference, according to Shrier’s article. “One of them was Googling ‘Trans Day of Visibility.’ And we’re like, ‘Check.’ We’re going to invite that kid when we get back on campus.”
Caldera has since said her comments were made “tongue in cheek” and should not have been taken as seriously as they were.
After Shrier’s article was circulated widely online, both Caldera and Baraki were put on administrative leave pending an internal investigation and their UBU club was suspended.
According to Konen’s complaint, her daughter attended UBU meetings beginning in 2018, when she was in the sixth grade. Although she had initially left the club after one meeting, Caldera had convinced her to rejoin.
Konen says her daughter in 2019 began wearing more masculine clothes, changed her name and decided to use male pronouns (she has since switched back to her original name and pronouns).
According to the complaint, in December 2019, Konen was called to the school for a meeting about her daughter, where she was informed by Caldera and school administrators that Buena Vista Middle would be referring to her daughter using her new name and pronouns, and her daughter would be given permission to use the teachers’ unisex bathroom.
Konen authorized the school to add her daughter’s new name and pronouns to its attendance roster, but says in the complaint that the school took it a step further, changing her daughter’s name in official records and giving her a new email address to reflect her new gender identity.
When Buena Vista Middle switched from in-person instruction to remote learning in March 2020 due to pandemic shutdowns, Konen’s daughter returned to “her old self” and began using her given name and female pronouns, according to the complaint.
Now in high school, Konen’s daughter “still deals with confusion,” Konen told The Associated Press (AP), but “she feels like she can breathe, you know, like she doesn’t have pressure on her.”
The California Teachers Association has condemned the complaint, and a spokesperson told the AP that the Center for American Liberty, which is representing Konen, is seeking to “divide parents, educators and school communities for their own political gain.”
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