School counselor speaks out on gender identity case Guest commentary: "The hatred has been astounding ..."

by Mandi Robertson
posted July 22

My name is Mandi Robertson, and I am the school counselor and wellness center coordinator at Sierra View Elementary School.

Robertson said she often incorporates art in her work with children as well as as for her own processing and expression.

I am white, heterosexual, neurotypical, cisgendered, and able-bodied. Though I grew up below the poverty line and experienced several ACEs, I was a first-generation college student and have an advanced degree, a professional license, and financial security. In short, I have privilege tempered by adversity. For the past 20+ years, I have honored my privilege by serving others. I have worked with thousands of children and hundreds of families as a counselor, psychotherapist, and consultant in schools and community-based nonprofits. I am an accomplished, innovative, and well-respected leader, advocate, and mentor in my field and, until January, had received only positive recognition for my work.

On January 13, 2023, Chico Unified School District received notice of a lawsuit, Regino vs. Staley, et. al. While I was not named as a defendant, allegations focused on my work with a student questioning their gender identity. Stirring the outrage regarding this politically fueled case (562 anti-trans bills have been introduced in the U.S. in 2023), numerous news outlets chose to use my full name, as did the plaintiff and attorney in locally and nationally televised interviews. The allegations were interpreted by many as fact without a question as to the truth of the accusations. The ensuing plethora of ill-will and hatred from members of our community and from across the nation has been astounding. This has been an unexpected and undeserved journey; I have been libeled, slandered, defamed, and silenced. I have feared for the safety and well being of my own children, for our students and staff, and for myself.

It is new to me to live with such fear, yet another way in which I am privileged. Fear is no stranger to the LGBTQ+ community. For those who are transgendered, especially those living in homes where being transgendered is considered a choice, shameful, and a sin, fear and its consequences are ever-present. The Trevor Project’s National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health 2020 ( found the following:

— 1 in 3 LGBTQ youth have been physically threatened or harmed in their lifetime due to sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

— Over 60% of transgender and nonbinary youth reported engaging in self-harm in the previous 12 months.

— More than half of transgender and nonbinary youth have seriously considered suicide.

— Transgender and nonbinary youth who reported having pronouns respected by all or most people in their lives attempted suicide at half the rate of those who did not have their pronouns respected.

— Feeling that school staff cared a lot or very much about them was associated with 34% lower odds of attempting suicide in the previous year for LGBTQ youth.

One of my guiding principles in working with students is to treat each one as I would wish my own child to be treated in similar circumstances. I treated this child with dignity, respected their wishes, and honored their privacy while building empathy for their mother. When a child divulges information about their identity, I offer support in sharing this with their family. If not ready to disclose, I work with them to progress toward this sharing if they feel safe doing so. As a counselor and a humanist, I offer acceptance and unconditional positive regard, a safe space, and containment without judgement. I encourage all families to develop and nurture similar environments and relationships; every person deserves to be loved and accepted as they are.

“I did not encourage a transition for this student … ” — Mandi Robertson

Here is the truth about this lawsuit: Every allegation is false except one. It is true that I did not inform the mother of this child of their decision to use a chosen name and pronouns at school. Professional ethics prohibit me from outing any person against their will unless safety requires it. In addition, the California Department of Education’s anti-discrimination policy, which CUSD observes, protects students from such violations of privacy. All the other allegations are untrue. It is imperative that individuals lead and fully control the process of sharing their identity with others. I did not transition or encourage a transition for this student; I did support this child as they shared their requests with others. On July 11, 2023, Senior U.S. District Judge John Mendez dismissed the case against CUSD.

I begin each weekly social-emotional classroom lesson with gratitude, and I’d like to practice that here. I am thankful to live in California and work for CUSD where LGBTQ+ youth continue to be seen and protected. I am forever grateful for those who supported me over the past six months, a special shout-out to Matt, Savvy, and River who walked through the darkest of days beside me. And a tremendous “thank you” to all the advocates and allies among us who lead with love and empathy and engage their privilege to advance the lives of others.

To all LGBTQ+ youth: You are worthy, you are loved, there is hope. Text ‘START’ to 678-678 for immediate crisis support.

To learn more about how school counselors and wellness centers serve CUSD students, I encourage you to view my presentation at the 11/16/2022 board meeting. It is available on YouTube on the Chico Unified School District Board of Education channel and begins at marker 1:15.

A Butte County native, Mandi Robertson is the mother of two CUSD students, a licensed marriage and family therapist and credentialed school counselor, a Chico community volunteer, and an “advocate for kindness, equity, and safety for all.”

3 thoughts on “School counselor speaks out on gender identity case Guest commentary: "The hatred has been astounding ..."

  1. Thank you , Mandi, for explaining your experience so others can learn and grow from it. We are very lucky to have you in our community and our schools and as the parent of a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I thank you for providing a safe space for those kids who need it. Please know I speak for many!!

  2. Thank you. Many of us appreciate your professional and personal appreciation of our children as they are and as the wish to be. This was another political ploy by the minority who wish to rule our lives. I’m so sorry you got targeted by their hate and intolerance. It’s on them, of course, but that is little comfort when subjected to their vile natures. Hang in there!

  3. Thank you, Mandi, for your kindness, acceptance and professionalism with students. You gave this student a safe place to share something difficult, and you treated them with respect and dignity. I appreciate the work you are doing.

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