LGBTQ advocates speak up for student privacy concerns

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. — A local elementary school student is at the center of a federal lawsuit.

It’s over a parent’s right to know about their child’s on-going discussions with a school counselor about gender identity and bullying.

The Clay County parents say they were only alerted after their child tried to commit suicide.

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Now, LGBTQ+ advocates say it’s important to protect these students’ right to talk to their counselors.

“Over the years that I worked there, I did have students who would speak to me or imply that they were different from the other boys and girls, and I respected their privacy.”

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Richard Ceriello worked for the Clay County school district for decades. He says that during his time in Clay County, students would open up about their LGBTQ identity to him, which is something he would share with school counselors.

“The counselor would keep this information private of course unless the child chose to share that with the counselor and the family,” Ceriello said.

Now-,a similar situation is being questioned as one family sues the district for not disclosing their child had been seeing a school counselor weekly after questioning their gender identity.

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The family’s lawyer, Bernadette Broyles, says the situation should have been disclosed.

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

The child’s father told us the parents believe they should have been notified, especially if their child was being bullied, as the lawsuit reports.

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However, many LGBTQ advocates like Manny Velasquez-Paredez say keeping an open, safe space for students to discuss their identity with an adult outside the home is important.

“If the individual did not come out to their family, there’s a reason for that.”