Federal Judge Mark Walker has dismissed a case filed against the Leon County School Board by the parents of a Deerlake Middle School student related to parental rights.
The case addressed an incident at Deerlake Middle School where actions were taken by Leon County school officials that left parents out of the decision making process related to the treatment of their daughters gender.
Walker wrote in the 29-page order, “Parental liberty interests under the U.S. Constitution are a ‘murky area of unenumerated constitutional rights,’ and this Court must exercise great caution when reviewing such cases. The Eleventh Circuit has repeatedly recognized that plaintiffs face an incredibly high bar when bringing substantive due process claims, especially claims based on deliberate indifference, and that the U.S. Constitution does not protect against every encroachment of one’s liberty interests.”
Walker concluded the order, “While Defendants alleged conduct may give rise to other claims, Plaintiffs fail to state a substantive due process claim because Defendants’ alleged conduct does not rise to the level of conscience-shocking as defined by binding case law. Accordingly, Plaintiffs’ federal claims are DISMISSED without prejudice”
The action was filed by the Littlejohn family, who released a statement after the decision, stating, “We are disappointed and disagree in the strongest terms with the district court’s dismissive treatment of constitutionally protected parental rights in this decision. We will be filing an appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. We are optimistic that the Court of Appeals will overturn the ruling, particularly in light of its 11th Circuit’s en banc decision in Adams v. School Board of St John’s County.”
According to the order, the Littlejohn’s alleged damages included severe emotional distress and an exacerbation of their daughters psychological and educational difficulties, ongoing emotional and psychological damage to the family dynamic, and costs associated with providing educational alternatives.
Tallahassee Reports reported in September, 2021 that officials at Deer Lake 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.
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, directed school officials to contact parents in similar situations unless a student is in danger. This guidance has recently been added to official LCS documents.