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Clay parents sue district, claim counselor discussed elementary student’s gender identity without their knowledge

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – The parents of a Clay County elementary school student are suing the school district, alleging that a school counselor violated parental rights by meeting with the 12-year-old about gender identity.

The school district denies the claims.

According to the complaint, the parents, whom News4JAX has decided not to publically identify to protect the child’s identity, were only notified on Jan. 5 about the weekly meetings after the student attempted suicide at school twice in as many days.

The lawsuit was filed on the parents’ behalf by the Child and Parental Rights Campaign, identified on its website as “a non-profit, public-interest law firm founded to defend parents’ rights to shield their children from the harms of gender identity definition .”

“The school counselor alleged that it was because of a gender identity issue,” the student’s father told News4JAX. “They knew we, as parents, would not be in agreement because of our Catholic Christian beliefs.”

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The father claims his child had never shown any signs of “gender confusion” or questioned their biological sex. He added that the child’s suicide attempts were the result of the discussions with the school counselor, which he believes added to the 12-year-old’s “gender confusion.”

“The school counselor went so far as to encourage and call our daughter by a fictitious male name, and male pronouns in front of other students, causing a pattern of bullying against our daughter,” the father said. “And again, all this, behind our backs.”

Clay County District Schools says the parents’ claims are completely false and intended to stoke political outrage. The school district released the following statement:

“Clay County District Schools has not been served with any legal process and cannot comment on the content of any pleading filed with the court. The district has performed a thorough and complete investigation into this matter as it was presented to us and has determined that the claims made by this out-of-state organization are completely false, fabricated, and appear to be intended for the purpose of inciting the public. All employees of the district consistently work to ensure that the best interests of all students are served. The district will have no further comment on this matter.”

Clay County District Schools

The child’s parents consider a person’s questioning of their gender identity to be a mental health problem, and not in line with their religion, but they say the fundamental conflict, in this case, is the scope of their parental rights, which they claim the school violated.

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“It is not the school’s prerogative to judge and to assess what is acceptable religious beliefs and what is not. Period,” said Vernadette Broyles, president and general counsel for the Child and Parental Rights Campaign. “There is a political movement and agenda to manufacture this concept of child’s privacy against their parents. It’s a manufactured political-ideological concept.”

When asked how their child was doing now, the parents’ lawyer responded.

“So, this child, she’s a little girl, and she’s a ‘she.’ She’s not a plural person, she’s a she, and so we ask people to just recognize that reality,” Broyles said. “She’s with her parents, and as a result, she’s doing well. She’s doing well with them, much more back to her normal self.”

Angel Russell, who works with PFLAG Jacksonville, said the attempt to “parent away” someone’s identity can lead to mental health problems.

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“There is something about the fear of rejection from your family that is crippling for people and I think that everyone can relate to that,” they said.

Russell said school counselors are there for that exact reason — to be a neutral person who a student can feel safe approaching with sensitive subjects.

“This kid still has agency as a human individual person living their life,” Russell said. “Even children deserve autonomy and civil rights.”

The lawsuit comes as the Parental Rights in Education bill, colloquially referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, is moving through the Florida Legislature. The bill would limit discussions of sexual orientation or gender identity in schools and would keep teachers from talking about certain LGBTQ subjects.

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Critics say a measure like that would increase suicide attempts amongst LGBTQ young people.

Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4Jax – All rights reserved.

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