IN-DEPTH: Woman Says Her Daughter Was Sex Trafficked After School Hid Gender Transition

Michele Blair says that if school officials hadn’t hidden her daughter’s gender dysphoria, she wouldn’t have been sex trafficked.
IN-DEPTH: Woman Says Her Daughter Was Sex Trafficked After School Hid Gender Transition
An LGBT activist holds pins about gender pronouns at the University of Wyoming campus in Laramie, Wyo., on Aug. 13, 2022. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)
Matt McGregor

A woman has filed a lawsuit against a Virginia school district alleging its clandestine support of her daughter’s decision to change her gender identity resulted in her being threatened, bullied, and ultimately trafficked by sexual predators.

Michele Blair, biological grandmother and adoptive mother of 16-year-old Sage Blair, alleges in the lawsuit (pdf) filed in August that staff at the Appomattox County High School directed Sage—who has a history of mental health issues and early childhood trauma—to change her name and pronouns and to use the boys' bathroom, all the while keeping it a secret from Mrs. Blair.

While attending school identifying as a boy named “Draco,” Sage faced abuse from the other students because of the actions of the staff to transition her, Mrs. Blair told The Epoch Times.

“She was being verbally, physically, and sexually harassed, with constant threats of rape from the male students, and despite this, the school still encouraged her to use the boys' bathroom,” Mrs. Blair said.

Among the defendants named in the lawsuit are two counselors—Dena Olsen and Avery Via—and Maryland public defender Aneesa Khan.

According to the lawsuit, Ms. Olsen and Mr. Via played a key role in deliberately concealing Sage’s transition while engaging in inappropriate psychotherapy methods to facilitate Sage’s belief that she was a boy, which later led to increased trauma and her decision to run away in August 2021.

Sage—identified as “S.B.” in the lawsuit—was kidnapped, drugged, and raped by an adult male who later drove her to Washington, where she was left with two brothers who drugged and raped her again before driving her to Maryland, where she was then left with a registered sex offender who kept her in a locked room only to be trafficked to other men, the lawsuit states.

After Sage had gone, law enforcement found a note she left for her parents which read, “You’ve done your job, Jesus loves you. ... I’m afraid of what is to come if I stayed. Be on your guard. There are bad people around here. ... All my love,” the complaint states.

'An Ideological Agenda'

Though law enforcement rescued Sage on Sept. 2, 2021, Mrs. Blair was not allowed to take her home because Ms. Khan, who was assigned as Sage’s public defender, alleged neglect at home, an allegation that was supported by Ms. Olsen and Mr. Via based on the supposition that Mrs. Blair and her husband weren’t acknowledging Sage as a male.

“She went with her own ideological agenda because of her belief that I was not adequately supporting Sage,” Mrs. Blair said. “We got into a courtroom, and she came up on a big Zoom screen. I called her name, saying, ‘I love you, Sage,’ and she replied, ‘I love you, Nana,’ and that was it. The public defender shut it down and convinced the judge that I was abusive because I didn’t call her by her boy name.”

Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Robert Kershaw at one point had Mrs. Blair’s husband removed from the courtroom for forgetting to use Sage’s masculine pronouns, she said, and the judge refused to acknowledge Sage’s need for trauma care, Mrs. Blair said.

Ms. Khan, with the assistance of Ms. Olsen and Mr. Via, had successfully convinced Judge Kershaw to have Sage put in the custody of the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services (DJS) where, at Ms. Khan’s insistence, she was housed with high-risk adolescent males who, again, sexually assaulted her, the lawsuit states.

“I just don’t understand why he went along with it,” Mrs. Blair said.

A month later in November, Sage fled to Texas to meet someone she'd met online who she believed was 16, but the person turned out to be another sex trafficker.

This time, Texas authorities were able to intervene and get her back to Mrs. Blair, where she remains after having been away from home for over a year.

“This all could have been avoided if the school had informed me of what was going on instead of keeping me in the dark,” Mrs. Blair said. “Sage would not have a lifetime complex PTSD diagnosis she will struggle with the rest of her life.”

Sage had already spent several months in the foster care system before she was adopted by the Blairs when she was 2 years old after her father died and her mother was unable to care for her.

“She had a history of mental health issues from early childhood trauma,” Mrs. Blair said.

Sage has good days and bad days, Mrs. Blair said.

“It’s a long road, but where there’s life, there’s hope, and I’m so grateful she’s alive,” she said.

The Lawsuit

Mary McAlister, senior litigation counsel with Child & Parental Rights Campaign, the firm representing Mrs. Blair, told The Epoch Times that they are suing school staff and the public defender for several causes of action, the first being the violation of the fundamental parental right of a parent to direct the upbringing of the child and a second being a violation of civil rights.

“By depriving Plaintiff of critical information regarding S.B.’s gender identity and sexual harassment and assaults at school, Defendants Olsen and Via have infringed Plaintiff’s fundamental right to direct S.B.’s upbringing in that Plaintiff did not have the information necessary to make reasoned decisions regarding how to respond to S.B.’s announcement of a male gender identity and the sexual harassment she suffered in the way most appropriate for protecting S.B.’s mental health and keeping her safe,” the complaint states.

They are suing for violation of Title IX for “deliberate indifference to sexual harassment” because, according to the complaint, school staff failed to take corrective measures when Sage reported she was being sexually assaulted.

“As a direct and proximate result of Defendants’ deliberate indifference to the severe, pervasive and objectively offensive sexual harassment suffered by S.B.," the lawsuit states, Sage will "continue to suffer significant physical and psychological trauma, educational disruption, and emotional distress."

The lawsuit alleges that Ms. Olsen, Mr. Via, and Ms. Khan violated Mrs. Blair’s fundamental right to custody of Sage because of a “perceived viewpoint about affirming an incongruent gender identity in her daughter.”

“Mrs. Blair is informed and believes that while S.B. was in custody in Baltimore Ms. Khan asked S.B. whether S.B.’s parents called her a boy at home, to which S.B. answered no,” the complaint states. “Upon hearing that answer, Ms. Khan determined, without taking into account any of S.B.’s mental health history or life circumstances and without having any contact with Mrs. Blair, that Mrs. Blair had an unfavorable viewpoint of S.B.’s assertion of a male gender identity, and that her perceived viewpoint constituted abuse and neglect.”

Alleged Abuse

According to the complaint, Ms. Khan met with Ms. Olsen and Mr. Via and determined that Mrs. Blair was guilty of abuse, though they never discussed Sage’s gender identity with Mrs. Blair.

“Despite only speaking with Mrs. Blair briefly on two occasions in August 2021, and not about S.B.’s asserted male gender identity, Mr. Via presented false sworn testimony that Mrs. Blair and her husband had been verbally abusive, emotionally abusive, and unsupportive to S.B.,” the lawsuit states. “Mr. Via also acted to provide Ms. Khan with mental health records for S.B., including the August 5, 2021 psychiatric evaluation showing a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, a diagnosis of which Mrs. Blair was not aware.”

Mrs. Blair is additionally suing Ms. Khan for legal malpractice.

“Ms. Khan knowingly and intentionally presented that false testimony to the Maryland court to secure an order of temporary custody with Maryland DJS so as to prevent Mrs. Blair from regaining custody and returning S.B. to Virginia,” the lawsuit states.

The Epoch Times contacted the Maryland Office of the Public Defender and Appomattox County High School for comment.

‘Sage’s Law’

To see that this doesn’t happen to any more parents, Mrs. Blair got involved in telling her story to push for legislation titled “Sage’s law,” which would prohibit school staff from hiding gender identity choices from the parents.
In January, Mrs. Blair gave her testimony before the Pre-K-12 Subcommittee of the Virginia House of Delegates, where she advocated for the passage of the bill.

Ms. McAlister said after the bill was introduced in the 2023 legislative session, it passed the Republican-controlled House of Delegates, but when it got to the Democrat-controlled Senate, it died.

“Every Democrat serving in the General Assembly voted against it, which is a sad commentary,” Ms. McAlister said. “But Virginia is having elections this November and the entire General Assembly is up for reelection, so if the makeup of the Legislature changes to be more Republican, then there’s great hope this law could be passed, and we’re certain Gov. [Glenn] Youngkin will sign it.”

Since telling her story, Mrs. Blair said she’s discovered she’s not alone.

Government agendas to separate children from their parents based on gender ideologies have ramped up since 2020, but it's the job of the parents to be the voice of reason for their children, Mrs. Blair said.

“We are the ones to make important personal and mental health decisions for our children,” Mrs. Blair said. “That’s not the role of the school.”

Now, Mrs. Blair is telling other parents that they’re not alone.

“Keep fighting for your children because we love them more than any school or court system ever could,” she said.