A grandmother is suing a Virginia school district and a public defender for allegedly hiding her 14-year-old granddaughter’s gender transition from her and advocating for the teen to be put in a group home, actions she claims resulted in the child falling into the hands of sex traffickers on two occasions.
Michele Blair is the grandmother of a teenager identified in court documents as “Sage,” a female teenager who previously identified as a male but has since transitioned back to identifying as a female.
Blair, alongside her husband, has served as the minor girl’s legal guardian since the child was 2 following her father’s death. Sage reportedly had a history of mental health issues due to childhood trauma, and as she began experiencing puberty in 2019, the girl started feeling distressed about her body.
According to a complaint Blair filed in federal court last week, the granddaughter began identifying as a boy during her freshman year at Appomattox County High School in August 2021.
The district school board and Superintendent Annette A. Bennett are listed as defendants in the filing. Other defendants include school counselors Dena Olsen and Avery Via and Aneesa Khan, a public defender.
In response to an inquiry from The Christian Post, Maryland Public Defender Natasha Dartigue said Monday that Khan is not currently providing statements at this time.
“We fully support our attorney, who appropriately represented her client in accordance with her legal, ethical, and professional obligations,” Dartigue stated.
The Appomattox County Public School District Superintendent did not immediately respond to The Christian Post’s request for comment.
On Aug. 11, 2021, Sage told a friend she wanted to be called by a male name and pronouns. The complaint alleges that Olsen later asked the teenager whether she identified as a girl or a boy. When the child replied that she identified as the latter, the counselor reportedly offered to let the girl use the boys’ bathroom without asking further questions.
The following day, Sage said during a meeting with Via and Olsen that she identified as a boy and wanted people to call her by a male name. Olsen did not address Sage by her chosen name when talking with Michele Blair about the student, nor did she disclose that the teenager was using male pronouns and using the boys’ restroom.
According to the complaint, Sage faced threats and harassment in the hallways and bathrooms from the boys at school. Olsen allegedly did not check in with Sage until administrators informed her that other parents had notified them about the events taking place in the restrooms.
When Olsen called Sage to her office, the lawsuit claimed it was to discuss the teenager’s identification as a boy. The counselor allegedly encouraged the student to “embrace” a male identity. The other counselor, Via, is accused of directing the student to websites and social media applications that promote gender transition so she could “find friends there.”
On Aug. 24, 2021, Sage met with Olsen and another staff member, where the student alleged that she had been threatened, harassed and sexually assaulted when she was using the restroom.
Despite the allegations of assault, the lawsuit contends that Olsen still did not notify Blair about her granddaughter’s desire to transition.
After Olsen, Via and a school police officer interrogated Sage about the assaults, Olsen informed Blair that the teenager had been using the boys’ restroom. However, she did not tell the student’s grandmother that her granddaughter had been using a male name and pronouns. Furthermore, when questioned by Olson and a police officer, it was reportedly implied that the student fabricated the threats of rape and was pressured to recant her story.
Blair did not learn that her granddaughter had been identified as a boy at school until she found a hall pass one day with the student’s alternative name on it. The teenager eventually confessed to her guardian.
The grandmother assured Sage they would resolve the issue in the morning, and the teenager did not need to return to school the next day.
The high school freshman ran away from home on Aug. 25, 2021. The lawsuit states that an adult male later abducted and raped her. The girl was taken across state lines to Washington, D.C., and Maryland, where she was reportedly drugged, held captive and raped by multiple men.
One month later, the FBI and Baltimore law enforcement recovered Sage from the home of a registered sex offender. After law enforcement notified Blair that they had found her granddaughter, they took the teenager to a juvenile detention center, where she was placed in isolation.
When Blair and her husband arrived to pick her up, they were denied access and informed that the girl would need to appear in court that afternoon.
Khan was assigned to represent Sage during juvenile court proceedings, and she learned that the girl was identified as a boy at school. During court proceedings, the public defender told the judge it was “unsafe” for Sage to resume living with her guardians, as they didn’t support her transition.
The 14-year-old was placed in a group home for boys. At the home, the lawsuit claims the teen was “told by Khan that her parents no longer wanted her and that Khan was going to arrange for [her] to live with a family in Maryland who would affirm her as a boy.” Khan is accused of telling the girl to lie that her guardians were abusive so the public defender could “win the case.”
Placed in a group home in Maryland, Sage was reportedly subjected to more abuse from boys in the home. On Nov. 12, 2021, she ran away from the home. The lawsuit contends that the teenager was abducted and raped by another male predator who brought her to Texas. She was abused until law enforcement rescued her in January 2022. Texas authorities immediately relinquished Sage to her grandmother, who returned home with her to Virginia.
As CP reported in January, the case inspired Virginia Delegate Dave LaRock, a Republican, to introduce “Sage’s Law,” also called the Child Protection Act, which would require school staff or administrators to inform at least one parent if their child identifies as trans.
According to The Federalist, Sage no longer proclaims to be a boy, and she wants the system to do a better job protecting kids like her who suffer from gender dysphoria.
“[Sage] has undergone intensive in-patient and outpatient therapy to address the
multiple incidents of extreme trauma caused by Defendants’ acts and omissions,” the lawsuit argues. “She has been diagnosed with Complex PTSD for which she will likely need therapy for the rest of her life.”
The plaintiff is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
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