Mom, Daughter Sue School District in Alleged Transgender ‘Coaching’ Case

By Brad Jones
Brad Jones
Brad Jones
Brad Jones is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California.
June 17, 2022 Updated: June 21, 2022

A lawsuit has been filed against a California school district and staff accused of coaching a middle school student into thinking she was transgender and secretly changing her name and pronouns at school.

The lawsuit alleges school staff manipulated the sixth-grade student into “believing she was bisexual and that her gender did not match her biological sex” and instructed her “not to tell her [mother] about the new gender identity and expression.”

Harmeet Dhillon, founder and CEO of the Center for American Liberty, which is representing the minor student and her mother, told The Epoch Times the case could be the first of many exposing the consequences of transgender activism in schools.

The lawsuit, filed on June 14, names Spreckels Union School District (SUSD); Katelyn Pagaran, the principal at Buena Vista Middle School in Salinas, California; and two teachers, Lori Caldeira and Kelly Baraki, as defendants.

Jessica Konen, the child’s mother, came forward after a leaked audio recording revealed Caldeira and Baraki telling other teachers about how they secretly recruited students into the school’s LGBT club.

Epoch Times Photo
Jessica Konen, the mother of a child who was allegedly coached into a transgender identity at school in Salinas, Calif. (Courtesy of Trevor Lewis)

The teachers bragged about spying on students’ online searches and activity, as well as eavesdropping on their conversations to identify and recruit sixth-grade students into the LGBT club, whose membership rolls were kept hidden from parents.

“We totally stalked what they were doing on Google,” Baraki said in the recording.

The duo led a workshop called “How We Run a ‘GSA’ in Conservative Communities” at a California Teachers Association conference billed as the “2021 LGBTQ+ Issues Conference, Beyond the Binary: Identity and Imagining Possibilities,” held in Palm Springs in October 2021. They described the hurdles they encountered as teachers to conceal the activities of the Gay–Straight Alliance (GSA) “Equality Club” from parents.

New details have surfaced in the case now that Konen’s daughter, who is protected under the pseudonym “A.G.” in the lawsuit because she is a minor, is actively participating in the case, Dhillon said.

The lawsuit alleges that the teachers acted with Pagaran’s knowledge.

“Pagaran was aware of the Equality Club and Caldeira’s and Baraki’s tactics … and approved of them. In fact, Pagaran frequently attended Equality Club meetings,” the lawsuit states.

It also alleges that Baraki and Caldeira tried to push identities on students, which the students resisted.

Near the beginning of the 2018 school year, when Konen’s daughter was 11 years old, she was invited by a friend to attend an Equality Club meeting but wasn’t interested in the discussion and decided not to return, according to the lawsuit.

About two weeks later, Caldeira approached Konen’s daughter and asked her to come back to the club, saying that she “fit in perfectly,” and the child obliged, the lawsuit alleges.

Epoch Times Photo
A file photo of El Segundo High School in El Segundo, Calif., on July 28, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

In the spring of 2019, Konen’s daughter told a school counselor she was depressed and began attending weekly counseling sessions, after which “Caldeira and Pagaran would often have follow-up meetings with [her] and the school counselor,” the lawsuit states. “During those meetings, the counselor and Caldeira informed [the child] that the feelings she was having were because she was ‘not being who she was’ and that if she became her ‘true self,’ her depression and stress would be better (or words to that effect).”

Caldeira encouraged Konen’s daughter to change her name to a boy’s name, and she began wearing boy’s clothing, the lawsuit further alleges.

“Sometimes, Caldeira and Baraki would introduce and push identities on students, and the students resisted,” states the lawsuit.

Before attending a school board meeting in mid-December 2021 to expose the alleged manipulation her daughter had endured, Konen went public with her story and accused school staff, including the two teachers, of “coaching” her daughter.

The Center for American Liberty filed a notice of claim under the Government Claims Act, a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit against the California government, on Jan. 19. The state had 60 days to respond but didn’t do so.

“For me, as a civil rights lawyer, I think adults should be allowed to do whatever they want, and if they want to express themselves that way after full information, then that’s their right,” Dhillon said. “But people are not getting the full information about this radical transgender agenda.

Epoch Times Photo

“They’re not learning about the permanent effects of these changes. They’re not learning that their sadness and their depression is never going to go away. In the process, American schoolteachers are actively interfering with the civil rights of American families. And so we intend through this lawsuit and others … to put a stop to this before they permanently damage and scar more children and destroy more lives.”

Dhillon disagrees with President Joe Biden’s recent push for “gender-affirming care” and state legislation proposed by California Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Assemblymember Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City) to harbor transgender-affirming parents who’ve been charged with child abuse in other states.

Some treatments such as puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, which are used to treat minors who identify as transgender, haven’t been properly medically tested for use on children, Dhillon said.

“The use of puberty blockers on children is not ‘on label.’ It’s not tested,” she said. “They’re using drugs meant for other diseases like prostate cancer. They’re using that to suppress hormones in American children.

“This is barbaric. When we see other countries mutilate the genitalia of girls and boys, we call that ‘barbaric.’ We call for human rights sanctions on those countries. We’re doing that in America under the guise of ‘gender-affirming care.’”

Decisions on transgender medicine are best left to adults—patients who are 18 and older and can legally make those decisions for themselves, she said.

“I think it will be sad if they do that, but I have no problem with it legally,” Dhillon said. “I have a huge problem, legally, with parents being alienated from the children.”

Schools hiding the gender identities of children from their parents isn’t only problematic, but illegal, “and we will show that in this lawsuit,” she said.

Epoch Times Photo
A transgender high school student (C) and classmate (L) visit the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles booth during a college and career convention at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Dec. 8, 2010. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Konen told The Epoch Times on June 15 that both she and her daughter are prepared for the legal battle against the school district and staff.

“I’m ready to fight this fight for my daughter. She is ready to fight it. We’re ready!” Konen said. “They will understand the consequences of their actions.”

SUSD Superintendent Eric Tarallo indicated at a previous school board meeting that a third-party investigation into the allegations made against the school district and staff would be completed by June 2. So far, the findings of the investigation—if it has indeed been completed—haven’t been released to the public.

Konen and other parents told The Epoch Times they were disappointed the June 2 school board meeting wasn’t livestreamed, as meetings have been in the past.

Tarallo hasn’t responded to inquiries, nor has Steve McDougall, the school board president.

Brad Jones
Brad Jones is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California.