'Experimental lab for transgender ideology': Feds accused of complicity in student's suicide

Justice and Education departments coerced school district to facilitate gender identity transitions, prioritizing ideology over mental health, former Trump civil rights chief says.

Updated: March 10, 2022 - 12:35pm

A decade ago, the National Center for Lesbian Rights filed a civil rights complaint on behalf of a California junior high student "initially raised as a female" who now identified as male and wanted to use the boys' bathroom at school and room with boys on overnight school trips.

The Obama administration reached a resolution agreement with the Arcadia Unified School District in 2013, requiring it to treat students according to their gender identity and facilitate their social transitions to the opposite sex, subject to ongoing federal supervision.

Yaeli Martinez was one of the first Arcadia Unified students to be treated under this new system. According to her mother, the transition to "Andrew" worsened Yaeli's mental health problems, and in 2019 her "beautiful girly girl" who dressed like a princess as a child stepped in front of a train at age 19.

Abigail Martinez fought through tears to tell the story of her deceased daughter Monday at a Heritage Foundation event on "radical gender ideology" in public schools. 

"I want everyone to know the truth about what happened to our family because it didn't have to happen," said the mother of four, who immigrated to the U.S. from El Salvador at age 18. "I can't explain this pain ... Even when you breathe it hurts."

Roger Severino, former civil rights director for the Department of Health and Human Services in the Trump administration, made the connection to the federal settlement with the school district. 

"They created an experimental lab for this transgender ideology, and Yaeli was the first victim of it," said Severino, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, from the audience. He connected Martinez with Heritage after the conservative think tank scheduled the event with a different panelist, Senior Research Fellow Jay Richards told Just the News.

The Justice Department and Arcadia Unified did not respond to queries about the possible role played by the 2013 settlement in Yaeli's mental health decline and suicide. The Education Department acknowledged the query but did not further respond.

Martinez said she notified the school that her daughter was showing signs of depression and that she was being bullied for her looks. Administrators allegedly traced the mental health problems to gender dysphoria and socially transitioned her.

While she supported her daughter's exploration of male hairstyles and outfits and agreed to call her Andrew, Martinez told Yaeli she was going through temporary phases. The school disagreed, falsely claiming that Yaeli had identified as male since childhood. "I was accused that I didn't want to open my eyes," said Martinez.

Yaeli ran away after a suicide attempt, informed that California would pay for transgender medical procedures if she were removed from home and that the transition would improve her mental health, Martinez said. 

A transgender peer coached her on what to tell the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), and the school supported her removal as well. Yaeli was placed in foster care and paired with an LGBTQ support group at age 16. 

Martinez said she went to court "every single month" to get her daughter back, unsuccessfully seeking a psychological evaluation for Yaeli. During hour-long supervised visits each week, Martinez was banned from discussing certain topics with Yaeli, including God.

Officials ignored her pleas to treat Yaeli's mental health problems instead of giving her cross-sex hormones, which didn't make the teenager feel better, as she allegedly confessed in group therapy. 

The suicide caused a stir in Los Angeles County at the time, with DCFS on the defensive, according to youth and family publisher The Imprint. Martinez testified at a Board of Supervisors meeting and set up a fundraiser for Yaeli's memorial.

Other mothers shared their legal battles to stop school districts from socially transitioning children and unveil gender ideology in the curriculum.

January Littlejohn and her husband sued Florida's Leon County school board and district officials last year for implementing a protocol that "explicitly circumvents parental notification and involvement" when a child asserts a "discordant gender identity."

This involves treating children as the opposite sex at school and in school-spnosored activities such as overnight trips, while referring to them by their birth names and pronouns in communications with parents.

Another Florida family sued Clay County's school district in January for its secret gender-identity meetings with their daughter, which were divulged only after the girl attempted suicide on consecutive days.

As with other adolescents whose mental health took a dive during COVID-19 lockdowns, Littlejohn's daughter and her friends started questioning their gender in summer 2020.

Like Martinez, Littlejohn notified the school of her daughter's problems, but was blindsided when the girl told her that school officials asked which restroom she wanted to use. The vice principal hid details of that meeting from Littlejohn, citing a nondiscrimination policy.

The mother learned of a 6-page "support plan" for her daughter that included her restroom and bunking preference, which created a "huge wedge" within the family. Littlejohn said her daughter was only celebrated at school after she started identifying as male.

Rhode Island mother and lawyer Nicole Solas got herself sued by teachers unions last summer for filing public records requests for curriculum and policies related to gender theory and children's sexuality.

Solas said she learned from her daughter's principal that the school uses unwritten "common practices" such as avoiding gendered terminology with the kindergartners. 

She was alarmed to learn about the school's practice of socially transitioning children without parental consent, in which students can allegedly request a "point team" of teachers, staff and mental health professionals to transition them on a set schedule. 

Solas withdrew her own daughter in response. "There's no age threshold," she said. "There's no really no rules on how they do this." 

The district refused to give her the number of students being transitioned, claiming it would breach student confidentiality, which Solas said is false because it has provided her similar information in the past. 

She's still waiting for a ruling on her August motion for summary judgment in the teachers unions' lawsuit, the subject of a December hearing, according to the court docket.

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