FL Parents Sue School District, Say Officials Colluded with Daughter to Change Her Gender ID Behind Their Backs
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The parents of a middle school student in Leon County, Florida, have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the local school district for meeting with their daughter to discuss her chosen gender identity without their consent or notifying them about the meeting.
WCTV in Tallahassee reports the parents' lawsuit claims the district's LGBTQ policies illegally exclude parents from gender identity discussions about their own children.
The student's parents, January and Jeffrey Littlejohn, argue the school officials' actions directly violated their parental rights under the U.S. Constitution and the Florida Constitution. They point to the school district's "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Gender Nonconforming and Questioning Support Guide" which "deliberately and intentionally directed LCS staff and personnel to disregard parental rights by NOT telling parents when their children asserted a discordant gender identity," according to legal documents filed in the case.
According to the 63-page lawsuit, the Littlejohns' daughter, then a 13-year-old student at Deer Lake Middle School, had been diagnosed with ADHD and had expressed confusion about her gender identity in the late spring of 2020. The parents told the school their daughter was receiving counseling and could use "J" as a nickname at school, but she would continue to be referred to by her given name and as a female.
The suit claims the Littlejohns never gave school officials permission to change their daughter's name or pronouns. They later found out school officials had met with their daughter to discuss her restroom and overnight trip choices without informing them.
In their lawsuit, the Littlejohns alleges the district violated their parental rights by "implementing a protocol which explicitly circumvents parental notification and involvement in critical decisions affecting their children's mental, emotional and physical health."
The parents also maintain the school district has caused "great harm" to their family, driving "a wedge" between themselves and their daughter, and "sending the message that her parents cannot be trusted and do not support her best interests."
The suit was filed on Oct. 18 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, naming the Leon County School Board, Superintendent of Schools Rocky Hanna and Assistant Superintendent, Equity Officer, and Title IX Compliance Coordinator Kathleen Rodgers as defendants.
Superintendent Hanna told WCTV that he understands all parties need to be involved, including parents, but it's the district's job to protect the children.
"We certainly want to include parents, and with the Parental Bill of Rights, I understand that and respect that, but we also have to respect the rights of the individuals, safety of the children we care for each and every day," Hanna said. "While the children are in our care we act in loco parentis, on behalf of a parent while they're under our care."
Hanna also apologized to the family and said the district will revamp its policies. His statement is cited in the lawsuit.
The case has not yet been scheduled, according to the U.S. District Court's website.
In an email to CBN News, Chris Petley, communications and media relations coordinator for the Leon County Schools, wrote: "While we do not typically comment on open litigation, we feel it important to provide one in this instance."
"Our district thrives when parents are involved. From the moment Mrs. Littlejohn first emailed her child’s teacher to inform our staff of the situation, this has been handled together with clear communication," Petley continued. "We understand that outside entities have now become involved, but the family clearly instructed the school staff to allow their child to 'take the lead on this' and to do 'whatever you think is the best'.”
"Additionally, our superintendent met with the family to apologize and he committed to amend any vague or unclear policy language. We truly hope for a swift outcome in this case in order to allow the student to continue to succeed in our school system," he concluded.
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