The parents of a middle school student in Leon County, Florida, have filed a lawsuit against the school district for privately meeting with their daughter to discuss her gender identity without informing them. The lawsuit, submitted on October 18, contends that the school district’s gender identity policies violate the plaintiffs’ parental rights under the Florida and U.S. Constitution.
The suit says the girl, who was a student at Deerlake Middle School at the time, started expressing confusion about her gender identity in the spring of 2020 and parents permitted faculty to refer to their daughter using the nickname “J.”
According to court documents, “By late spring 2020, A.G. told her parents that she was confused about her gender and believed she might be non-binary. Mrs. Littlejohn learned that earlier in the year, three of A.G.’s friends had stated that they were transgender. She also observed that A.G. was receiving text messages from transgender friends.”
The parents claim that they never gave school officials permission to change their daughter's name or pronouns. They had discovered that school officials had met privately with their daughter to discuss her gender identity and restroom and overnight trip choices without informing them.
The lawsuit states that the parents “were shocked to learn” that the school’s gender identity policies “gave children like their daughter authority to determine whether their parents would be informed of their gender identity decisions, including giving children the authority to decide which sex-separated private facilities they would use and with which sex they would room on overnight trips.”
The parents assert that LCS administrators and staff had violated parental rights “by directing staff to deceive parents by using the children’s birth name and corresponding pronouns in the presence of or communication with the parents while using the children’s new chosen name and pronouns at all other times.”
The parents also argue that the school district’s “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Gender Nonconforming and Questioning Support Guide” directly advises teachers and staff not to report gender identity discussions they conduct with students to parents.
The lawsuit cites this Q&A in the LGBT Support Guide:
Q: A student has exhibited behavior in school leading administrators or teachers to believe the student is LGBTQ+. Should the parents or legal guardians be notified?
A: No. Outing a student, especially to parents, can be very dangerous to the students health and well-being. Some students are not able to be out at home because their parents are unaccepting of LGBTQ+ people out. As many as 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ+, many of whom have been rejected by their families for being LGBTQ+. Outing students to their parents can literally make them homeless.”
Moreover, the lawsuit points out that the Guide instructs LCS staff that “children are to be permitted to use any sex-separated facility that the child says corresponds to the ‘gender identity’ the child asserts, regardless of concerns raised by other children” and cites the following passage:
Q: A student has complained about a person of the wrong sex in the bathroom or locker room area. What action should be taken?
A: As part of LCS policy against discrimination based on gender identity, any student may use restroom and locker room facilities in accordance with their gender identity. Students cannot be singled out, such as requiring them to use a separate bathroom from their peers (i.e., using the nurse's bathroom or single occupancy bathroom only).
In addition, the Guide cautions LCS staff that they must refer to students by the name and pronouns of their choosing or else face a charge of harassment.
The lawsuit claims that the Leon County School District has violated their civil rights by “implementing a protocol which explicitly circumvents parental notification and involvement in critical decisions affecting their children’s mental, emotional and physical health.”
A statement provided by the girl’s father in the lawsuit highlights his daughter’s ADHD as a cause for concern in regards to her gender confusion, saying,
“Our daughter is 13 years old and a minor. We are her natural parents and legal guardians. Our daughter is diagnosed with ADHD and has an active ‘504 Plan’ on file with the school. My wife and I have met with her counselor, and we have learned from her that it is common in children with ADHD to experience developmental delays in emotional maturity, among other things. In fact, our counselor believes that our daughter exhibits the emotional maturity of a typical 10 or 11 year old child. For all of these reasons, we find it incredible that she was given the opportunity to advocate for herself in this instance, without our knowledge or opportunity to participate.”
The girl’s parents contend that the actions of the school faculty have harmed their relationship with their daughter irreparably.
“The district has driven a wedge between A.G. and her parents, sending the message that her parents cannot be trusted and do not support her best interests. The rift created by the district between A.G. and her parents is profound and unlikely to be fully rectified,” the lawsuit says.
The parents are requesting an injunction to prohibit school staff from enforcing its policies or facilitating social gender transitions without parental permission while the court case is pending.
Superintendent of Schools Rocky Hanna apologized to the family and has promised to update the district’s policies regarding gender identity.
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