Gov. Ron DeSantis has been sharing a story about a family’s lawsuit against a school for the need to back the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
However, his version of the story is not true, according to reports.
Since signing the “Parental Rights in Education” bill into law, DeSantis has been sharing a story about a Leon County mom suing a school for not fully consulting with her about the school’s gender-affirming plan for her child, according to CNN.
"We had a mother from Leon County, and her daughter was going to school and some people in the school had decided that the daughter was really a boy and not a girl,” DeSantis said during a news conference April 5. “So they changed the girl's name to a boy's name, had her dress like a boy and on doing all this stuff, without telling the mother or getting consent from the mother. First of all, they shouldn't be doing that at all. But to do these things behind the parents' back and to say that the parents should be shut out. That is wrong.”
However, according to emails, DeSantis’ version of events is false. On Aug. 27, 2020, January Littlejohn, a Republican, emailed a teacher to notify that her child wanted to change pronouns and would let her child use a different name at school.
"This has been an incredibly difficult situation for our family and her father and I are trying to be as supportive as we can,” Littlejohn wrote. “She is currently identifying as non-binary. She would like to go by the new name [redacted] and prefers the pronouns they/them. We have not changed her name at home yet, but I told her if she wants to go by the name [redacted] with her teachers, I won't stop her."
The teacher thanked Littlejohn and asked if she should share with other teachers. CNN reported that Littlejohn said the situation was “difficult and confusing.”
"Whatever you think is best or [redacted] can handle it herself’” the parent said.
In another email, Littlejohn told the teacher, "This gender situation has thrown us for a loop. I sincerely appreciate your support. I'm going to let her take the lead on this."
Littlejohn did not respond to requests from CNN about the emails.
After two months of the exchanges, Littlejohn and her husband, Jeffrey, filed a lawsuit against the Leon County School Board over how the school handled their child’s gender identity.
The parents claim that school officials met with their child and created the Transgender/Gender Nonconforming Student Support Plan that includes which pronouns the child preferred, which restrooms the child would use and "expectations regarding rooming for any overnight trips," and denied them access to meetings and information while also concealing information about their child, according to CNN.
"From the moment Mrs. Littlejohn first emailed her child's teacher to inform our staff of the situation, this has been handled together in partnership with clear communication,” Chris Petley, Leon County Schools communications coordinator, told CNN. “We understand that outside entities have now become involved, but the family clearly instructed the school staff via email 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 and committed to amending any vague or unclear policy language — of which we have created a committee and are working on currently. We truly hope for a swift outcome in this case in order to allow the student to continue to succeed in school."
The parents hired attorneys from the Child & Parental Rights Campaign which was founded to defend parents’ fights to “shield their children from the impacts of gender identity ideology."
Going back to DeSantis, a spokesperson for the governor said that his office has not seen the email exchange but pointed to other news stations that have reported the same story, and apologized for how the situation was handled, CNN reported.
"In the initial meeting with the family the superintendent apologized for everything the family was going through," Petley said. "He was unaware of the email directing the teachers to let the child 'take the lead.'"
The governor's office did not specifically respond to a question about the differences in what Littlejohn's emails reveal and how the governor portrayed her story.