Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has repeatedly pointed to the case of a family in the state’s Leon County to explain the need for a controversial new law, dubbed by critics the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, that bans schools from teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity, particularly to young children.
On several occasions since signing the bill into law, DeSantis has highlighted the story of a woman named January Littlejohn, a registered Republican, who says she was not fully consulted about the school’s gender-affirming plan for her child.
According to the fact checking done by CNN however, the Governor did not present the full story. In addition, the family involved did not respond to repeated requests from CNN to clarify the story. According to the DeSantis version:
“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. 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,” DeSantis said during a news conference in Jasper, Florida, on Tuesday. The story was repeated again Thursday when he was in Palm Beach.
According to e-mails sent to the school by the mother
In an August 27, 2020, email to a teacher, Littlejohn stated, in part, “This has been an incredibly difficult situation for our family and her father and I are trying to be as supportive as we can. 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.
Littlejohn explained it was difficult and confusing, and went on to write, “Whatever you think is best or [redacted] can handle it herself.”
In another email the same day, 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.”
Nearly two months after the exchanges, Littlejohn and her husband, Jeffrey, filed a lawsuit against the Leon County School Board, as well as the district’s superintendent and assistant superintendent, over how the district handled her child’s gender identity.
The governor’s office did not specifically respond to a question about the differences in what the mother’s emails reveal and how the governor portrayed her story. (more)