Lawsuit claims Clay County Schools withheld information about child’s well-being

Suit claims a school counselor held secret weekly meetings with an elementary student about a gender identity crisis for months without alerting the parents.

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. — A Clay County father said his rights as a parent were violated and now he’s taking the school district to court.

The suit, filed by Child & Parental Rights Campaign, claims a school counselor held secret weekly meetings with an elementary student about a gender identity crisis for months without alerting the parents.

“It is a serious mental health decision that school personnel are not qualified, not competent, and not authorized to make,” Vernadette Broyles, the organization’s president, said. “Parents must be involved in these important decisions.”

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The father, who we are not naming to protect the identity of the child, said he was alerted on Jan. 5 that his daughter attempted to commit suicide on campus.

“It was a nightmare for us,” he told Action News Jax’s Robert Grant. He said the guidance counselor told him his daughter didn’t want to talk about it because of her parent’s Catholic faith.

“I took offense because that had nothing to do with it. I mean I don’t even know if she understands our faith. That demonstrated she was ignorant about it. Our faith is one of unconditional love for our children.”

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The suit was filed Monday in federal court.

“To protect the rights of parents to be able to raise their children, to direct the care of their child, in accordance with their faith and without the interference of government officials,” Broyles said.

The suit alleges that school leaders encouraged others to call the 12-year-old a boy and gave her a new name without the parents knowing.

A Jacksonville counselor told Action News Jax that confidentiality is protected until the child presents a danger of harming themself or others, then they must notify the parent.

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In a statement, Clay County Schools said it has not been served any legal process as of Tuesday. “We performed an investigation into these allegations and believe the statements made by this out-of-state organization invalid.”

The district had no further comment at this time.

A similar issue is also the same motivation behind House Bill 1557, currently making its way through the state Legislature.

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Broyles said she is a proponent of the bill. It would prohibit school districts from withholding information regarding a child’s emotional, physical and mental well-being from parents. It would also ban classroom discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity.

State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith is opposed to the bill.

“We call it the ‘don’t say gay’ bill because it will essentially erase conversations in our classrooms about LGBTQ students, families, and history,” he said. “Many LGBTQ people don’t have supportive homes. They don’t have supportive parents. Oftentimes their teachers and their school environment is the only form of support they have and we cannot take that away.”

The bill is now in the House Judiciary Committee.

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