Sam Brinton, the nonbinary ex-Energy Department nuclear waste official facing major prison time, once helped a nonprofit group craft a model school policy adopted in several states that tells schools to hide alleged gender identity or sexual orientation changes from “unaffirming” parents.
Between 2017 and 2020, Brinton was head of advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project, an LGBT group focused on youth suicide prevention, according to Brinton’s LinkedIn. In 2019, Brinton played a role in developing a 37-page booklet titled “Model School District Policy on Suicide Prevention,” which puts restrictions on how much teachers can talk to parents or guardians if their LGBT child is suicidal.
“While parents and guardians need to be informed and actively involved in decisions regarding the student’s welfare, the school mental health professional should ensure that the parents’ actions are in the best interest of the student (e.g., when a student is LGBTQ and living in an unaffirming household),” read the model, which was also published by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the American School Counselor Association, and the National Association of School Psychologists.
“In addition, our research shows that more than half of LGBTQ youth are not out to a single adult in school; these policies show LGBTQ youth, out or not, that their school is a safe place for them to learn, and that school staff are prepared to help them in times of crisis,” wrote Brinton in a September 2019 press release.
Brinton, 35, was appointed in January as deputy assistant secretary for spent fuel and waste disposition at the Energy Department’s Office of Nuclear Energy. The former official was charged with allegedly stealing a suitcase in September worth an estimated $2,325 and, in July, another suitcase in Las Vegas valued at $3,670, according to the DOJ.
Brinton, a biological male who identifies as nonbinary and was the first purported nonbinary person to work as a top Energy Department official, faces up to 15 years in prison. The former official oversaw a $45 million budget and 100 federal government staff members in his short time at the Energy Department.
State education departments in Arizona, Idaho, and Virginia have adopted the Trevor Project’s model policy in full or partially. In addition, so have school districts in places such as Oregon, California, and New Hampshire.
In one section of the model, which is titled “Special Considerations,” schools are instructed to conceal a child’s sexual orientation or alleged gender identity from their parent or guardian unless the student gives consent.
“When a parent is notified of perceived suicide risk or an attempt, it is essential that the school maintain student confidentiality related to personal information such as sexual orientation or gender identity, especially when the student has not already disclosed to the parent or guardian and does not want it shared,” read the model. “Information shared should be restricted to the perceived risk of suicide or facts of the attempt.”
“Disclosing a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity without their explicit consent can in some cases endanger the student and at a minimum will impair the rapport developed with the professional,” the model added.
The latest revelation about Brinton’s past comes after Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate GOP Conference, told the Washington Examiner on Tuesday that the Energy Department needs to investigate its “failed security clearance process” and how it vetted Brinton.
“Secretary Granholm has provided no answers to questions about the failed security clearance process,” said Barrasso. “A thorough investigation of the vetting process is overdue.”