A Catholic mother and father in Connecticut have sued local and state officials, saying they used false reports that the parents were mistreating their lesbian daughter to take her away from the family.
The couple filed one suit in March in Vernon, Conn., Superior Court, and another in Hartford Superior Court in July, but they were just made public Thursday by an article in the Journal Inquirer, a Connecticut newspaper. The first suit is against Regional School District 19 and staff members at the daughter’s high school, and the second is against the Connecticut Department of Children and Families. The family’s names are being kept confidential, with the parents identified by pseudonyms in the suits.
The parents said their daughter met several times with Morgan Perry, a guidance counselor at E.O. Smith High School in Mansfield, in September 2017 after the daughter wrote a poem that included suicidal ideation. The parents were notified about the poem but not about the meetings, they said. During those meetings, the daughter claimed her mother and father were verbally and physically abusing her because they did not approve of her lesbian identity, the parents said in court documents. The teen later said these were false statements, but Perry reported them to the DCF without consulting the parents, according to the couple. They contended that school officials “brainwashed” the girl.
The couple said they told a DCF social worker they were angry with their daughter because of her drug and alcohol use, not her sexuality. They also said the social worker did not investigate the allegations of physical abuse but reported that the parents were “extremely religious,” “unwavering in their beliefs,” and “rigid and controlling.” They also said another DCF social worker made derogatory comments about their religious beliefs, saying they had “to evolve their religion” and “go with the times.”
The DCF eventually placed the daughter with a foster parent, E.O. Smith track coach Cassandra Rowett, and left her in Rowett’s custody even after the abuse claims turned out to be unsubstantiated, the parents said. The daughter is now 18 and is not involved in the suits.
The couple said the actions by E.O. Smith officials and the DCF interfered with their parental rights, caused them severe emotional distress, and put their daughter at risk of harm. In each suit, they are seeking $500,000 in compensatory damages, unspecified punitive damages, and legal costs, the Journal Inquirer reports.
Connecticut Assistant Attorney General Stephen Vitelli, who is representing the DCF, filed a motion this week seeking to dismiss the suit against the state agency, saying the state is immune from lawsuits unless “it consents to be sued,” according to the paper. DCF and school district officials have declined comment on the suits.
The couple’s lawyer has filed a motion requesting that the documents in the suits be sealed, keeping them from public view. A hearing on that issue in the DCF suit will be held Monday. The next hearing on the school district suit is set for August 27.