On October 18, 2021, January Littlejohn and her husband filed a lawsuit against the Leon County School Board (LCS) in the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Florida with the help of the Child & Parental Rights Campaign, a non-partisan, non-profit public interest law firm. Listen to January Littlejohn describe the case in her own words.
The Littlejohns informed Deerlake Middle School in August 2020 of their 13-year-old daughter’s gender confusion, for which she was undergoing counselling. They gave permission for a nickname to be used but for no other kind of social transition.
Over the next month, unbeknown to the Littlejohns, the school proceeded to call their daughter by they/them pronouns, solicit her bathroom preferences, and ask if she preferred to sleep with the boys on an overnight trip.
When the Littlejohns asked for more information from school officials, they were told that “by law” only her daughter could authorize them finding out more or providing their input. The school could give no actual legal verification for their stance, but did provide the documents they developed in secret with their daughter, a “Transgender/Non-Conforming Student Support Plan,” with no notice or input from the Littlejohns. Among many directives was included a note that the Littlejohns were not to be notified at all.
After further inquiries for the legal basis of such actions, school officials gave the Littlejohns a copy of the LCS Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Gender Nonconforming and Questioning Support Guide, which states the following: “1) parents are not to be informed when their children announce that they identify as transgender; 2) children who express gender confusion are permitted to choose which restroom they will use and that parents will not be notified of such decisions by their own children; and 3) children have a legally protected right to keep from their parents information regarding their gender identity and steps taken by the district to affirm that identity.”
My husband and I gave our district multiple opportunities to rectify the parental rights violation that occurred with our family. This lawsuit is fundamentally about whether parents have the right to direct the education and upbringing of their children, as well as direct the medical/mental health decisions of their children. These guidelines are an assault on parental rights and have not only been adopted and followed here in Leon county, but all over the state of Florida and most of the country. Excluding parents from these meetings with their minor children and keeping them secret sends the message to children that parents are the enemy and that their parents’ input and authority are no longer important. This is incredibly damaging to the parent/child relationship. School districts claim they need to protect children from their parents. But the reality is, I needed to protect my child from school officials and the gender ideology and affirmation-only treatment approach they pushed on my child. The school took away my ability to do just that.”-January Littlejohn
The Littlejohns requested this guide be rescinded immediately and replaced with a new policy allowing parental notification; the school refused. Thus the Littlejohns have filed this federal lawsuit “asserting that LCS violated their parental rights under the United States and Florida constitutions. They also allege that LCS’s continued actions have violated Florida’s Parents Bill of Rights, recently enacted to prevent abuses such as these.”
In July 2021, Florida enacted HB 241, Parents’ Bill of Rights, which allows parents primacy in their “minor child’s education, upbringing, & health care.” However, it is clear that LCS has not changed its policy, hence the need for this lawsuit.
As the Littlejohns’ lawyer Vernadette Broyles stated in this article:
“I want to be very clear about something…. [A]ffirming a child’s discordant gender identity is a significant mental health and medical decision that affects the well-being of children with potentially life-long consequences. To affirm a child’s discordant identity is a treatment decision to a complex mental health issue that schools are not qualified to make. Parents must immediately be involved in such decisions. So this case is about establishing the rightful place of parents to make those decisions and that’s what protects children.”-Vernadette Broyles
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