Tallahassee Reports has learned that officials at a Leon County middle school interviewed a student and developed a gender transition plan without notifying the student’s parents.
The plan also included a strategy to hide the situation from the parents during school related communications.
The parents of the student have asked not to be named in TR’s report.
When questioned, school officials told the parents they were not required to be notified of the intervention based on state law and Leon County School (LCS) guidance.
Superintendent Rocky Hanna, after meeting with the parents, has directed school officials to contact parents in similar situations unless a student is in danger.
However, there has been no official change to the original LCS guidance and the parents are concerned that Hanna’s direction is not being followed by school officials.
The parents of the student reached out to Tallahassee Reports to voice their frustration over the situation and to highlight what they view as an ongoing problem in Leon County schools.
In August 2020 the parents informed the school about gender identity issues with their daughter. The parents believed the issues started during the COVID quarantine and was the direct result of her friend group.
The parents informed school officials that their daughter was in private counseling related to the gender identity issue.
In September 2020 the mother was told by her daughter she had a meeting with several school officials and she thought it was funny that they asked her what bathroom she preferred to use as a result of changing her name.
This LCS meeting with the student resulted in an interview that was memorialized in a six page document titled, “Transgender/Gender Nonconforming Student Support Plan.”
On page 2 of the document (shown below), the interviewer noted that the parents were not aware of their child’s gender transition. The interviewer noted that the issue should be kept from the parents.
The mother immediately emailed school officials to express concerns about not being notified or present at the meeting.
The mother was told by a school official that they could not tell them anything about the meeting because her daughter, by law, has to be the one to request the parents attendance.
The school official added that her daughter was protected under a non-discrimination law that does not include parental notification or input.
Parents Inquire About LCS Guidance
In October 2020 the parents contacted the LCS district office and asked about the specific law or policy that allowed the school to meet with their daughter without parental notification.
In November 2020 the parents were told that Florida statutes and LCS guidance allowed the school to meet with her daughter without their participation.
Specifically, officials indicated that Florida law requires LCS staff to keep a student’s LGBTQ+ status confidential and letting the student control confidential information regarding their identity.
School officials cited The Florida Educational Equity Act, F.S. 1000.05 and Rule 6A-19.001(4)(a)11, Florida Administrative Code as support for their actions.
In addition, the parents were told that LCS guidance states that parents should not be notified if a student has exhibited behavior in school leading administrators or teachers to believe the student is LGBTQ+.
The guidance indicated that some “students are not able to be out at home because their parents are unaccepting of LGBTQ+ people out.”
In December 2020 the family met with Superintendent Rocky Hanna and let him know from start to finish what had transpired with their daughter.
They told Hanna that “parents are being cut out of this very important meeting that can have life-long consequences with the child choosing to social transition with no due process.”
Hanna agreed and apologized for the manner in which the situation was handled.
Guidance Remains Unchanged, Parental Involvement “Encouraged”
In a follow-up meeting in January 2021, Hanna informed the parents that the guidance would be amended. Hanna said the new language would require parental notification when gender issues were identified, unless their is evidence the child is in physical danger.
However, it appears the guidance has yet to be officially changed.
In March 2021 LCS officials told the parents that they addressed the guidance with principals, assistant principals for administration and deans that unless there is some imminent danger to the student’s wellbeing (physical harm, abuse, etc.) they are encouraged to inform parents and convene a meeting.
However, during this time period the LCS website still provided guidance that directed the exclusion of parents when dealing with gender identity issues.
At a meeting with the parents in July 2021 LCS pulled the guidance language from the district website and told the parents they were working on revised guidance. The parents were also told that any new policy created would have to go to the school board for a vote with a forum for public comment.
The parents told TR this week that beyond comments made by Hanna at a principal’s meeting no official change to the guidance – which allowed parents to be excluded from meetings – is currently in place.
Hanna told TR that language for official guidance related to this issue is currently being developed.