“Teachers, school counselors, social service workers and courts must respect the parent’s fundamental rights in the parent-child relationship by involving parents immediately when a child is experiencing serious challenges,” LaRock wrote. The bill is named after Sage, a Virginia teen who went through horrific experiences after school officials did not share with her parents that she had started identifying as a male at school. Ultimately, Sage became a human trafficking victim. Michele Blair, Sage’s grandmother and adoptive mom, shared some of the tragic story at a Jan. 19 news conference in Richmond, when LaRock announced his new bill. Following the death of her son, Blair adopted Sage when the girl was about 2 years old. Sage had gone through several foster homes while Blair pursued the adoption. Blair recounted how the early childhood tumult left Sage scarred emotionally. After she turned 13, the girl was placed on medication for anxiety and depression. In August 2021, the then-14-year-old started at a new high school and began dressing like a boy. When Blair asked about it, Sage told her that was how the “emo” crowd (punk rocker types) she hung out with was dressing. At school, Sage requested that she be called “Draco” and referred to as a male. A school counselor told her she could use the boys bathroom. One day a group of boys “jacked” Sage up against a bathroom wall, which left her shaken. School officials were aware of the incident, which happened in late August, and other bullying the teen was facing, but did not inform Blair. “I’m her legal mother. I was left in the dark. I wish I had known, because if I had known this would have been a much, much different story. Sadly Sage was bullied and became extremely vulnerable,” Blair said at the news conference. Presumably, the reason the school did not reach out to the mother is because it would have had to reveal the reason Sage was being bullied is because she was identifying as a boy. The school counselor also directed Sage to transgender websites, according to Blair, where she connected with someone who represented himself as a 16-year-old, but it turned out to be an older man who was a sex trafficker. The man took Sage to Washington, D.C., and later to Baltimore, Maryland. At those locations, she was raped multiple times by different men. Blair reported Sage as missing to law enforcement, and on Sept. 2, 2021, the FBI rescued her from the sex trafficking ring. However, the teen’s ordeal was not over. When Blair and her husband Roger went to pick up Sage in Maryland, authorities would not release her to the couple. Instead, they were directed to go to a hearing that afternoon. There, Baltimore Assistant Public Defender Aneesa Khan told state court Judge Robert Kershaw that Blair and Roger “are emotionally and physically abusive parents.” Khan also accused them of not using the right names and pronouns. “We didn’t know until the night [Sage] disappeared she was claiming to be trans. We were ready to use any names and pronouns. I just wanted her out of Maryland and back to Virginia,” Blair said. Blair is actually a Virginia court-appointed special advocate (CASA) with years of experience working with troubled teens in the foster care system, Virginia education activist Laura Bryant Hanford noted in a Jan. 19 piece for The Federalist. So Blair and Roger were cleared of the abuse charges made by Khan. However, while the legal wrangling had been going on, the state of Maryland placed Sage in an all-boys home where she was assaulted again, according to Blair. In Nov. 2021, Kershaw approved Sage’s placement in a Virginia treatment facility that would affirm her “male” gender identity. While there, Sage met a purported 16-year-old “friend” online who lived in Texas. She ran away from the treatment facility to meet him, only to find that he too was a much older predator, who raped and brutalized her. Meanwhile, Blair was able to discover her daughter was in Texas through social media posts. Texas marshals rescued Sage in Jan. 2022. Blair flew down to meet her and brought her back to Virginia. But Sage had to return to the court-ordered facility. Finally, Josh Hetzler, an attorney with the Founding Freedoms Law Center, took on Blair’s case and secured Sage’s release in June 2022. It had been 344 days since she had first left home. Blair recounted that since returning from Texas, Sage had started wanting to wear girls clothes again and now identifies as female. She recently told her mother, while reflecting back on her transgender phase, “I don’t know who I was. I’m a totally different person now. I never was a boy. Everybody was doing it, I just wanted to have friends.” In her Federalist piece, Hanford observed, “That self-reflection is consistent with the research showing that upwards of 80 percent of gender dysphoric children embrace their sex as they emerge from puberty.” She argued at last week’s news conference that parents must be the primary people guiding their kids to adulthood. “When you leave parents out of a child’s life, you take out their greatest protection. You leave the door open to predators and you don’t know who walks through that door,” Hanford said. “Parental exclusion policies are a door wide open to predators.” Blair concluded, “We love our children more than any counselor, judge or teacher.” “They have no business teaching our children what gender they are, and certainly no business teaching them to keep secrets from their parents,” she continued. “Let us parents do our job. We know our children better than you do.” This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
1/ This morning, I filed HB 2432, because Virginia law needs to be absolutely clear that affirming a child’s biological sex does not justify taking a child away from their family. Subjective determinations of whether a family’s beliefs are “abuse and neglect” are not acceptable. pic.twitter.com/ygNkwJy7F1— Delegate Dave LaRock (@DaveLaRockForVA) January 19, 2023