Fact check: Emails show one of DeSantis’ stories backing the rationale for so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law didn’t happen as the governor says

On several occasions since the bill was signed 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 son. .

“We had a mother from Leon County, and her daughter was going to school and some people at 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, they made her dress like a boy and doing all these things, without telling the mother or without getting the consent of the mother. They shouldn’t be doing that at all in the first place. But doing these things behind the parents’ back and saying that the fathers should be excluded. That’s wrong,” DeSantis said during a news conference in Jasper, Florida, on Tuesday.

DeSantis had told the same story in Palm Beach County last Thursday. “Her daughter was in school in Leon County, and some people at school decided that her daughter was really a boy and they wanted to identify as a boy. So they changed her name. They changed the pronouns in her quotes. They did these things without telling the mother, let alone getting the mother’s consent,” said DeSantis, who is considered a possible GOP presidential candidate in 2024.

In the past, the governor’s office confirmed that Desantis was referring to Littlejohn when describing a Leon County mother who was having trouble with how her son’s school was handling her son’s gender identity.

First the facts: DeSantis’s account of what happened in Leon County is not exactly what a limited number of records that have been made public show, and the governor has continued to repeat history even after those records were made public late last month. last year. CNN obtained emails showing that Littlejohn wrote to the school in 2020 and notified a teacher that her son wanted to change the pronouns. Contrary to the governor’s interpretation of the story, Littlejohn also wrote that she would not prevent her son from using her preferred pronouns or name of her choice at school. Littlejohn references these emails in his lawsuit against the school and they were reported by the Tallahassee Democrat in November.

Littlejohn did not respond to multiple requests from CNN about the emails, which show only a conversation about a much more complicated matter between a family and their son’s school. This is what we know about the situation.

In an August 27, 2020 email to a teacher, Littlejohn stated, in part, “This has been an incredibly difficult situation for our family and his father and I are trying to be as supportive as possible. He currently identifies as not -Binary. She would like to go by the new name [redacted] and prefers the pronouns they/them. We haven’t changed his name at home yet, but I told him if he wants to take 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 that it was difficult and confusing, going on to write, “Whatever you think is best or [redacted] she can handle it herself.”

In another email from the same day, Littlejohn told the teacher, “This gender situation has thrown us out of control. I really appreciate your support. I’m going to let her take the lead on this.”

But it is what followed these emails that is now at the center of a lawsuit.

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 the gender identity of your son. In the lawsuit, the parents claim that school officials met with their son and created a Transgender/Gender Non-Conforming Student Support Plan in accordance with the policy. In a copy of a blank student support plan filed with the lawsuit, the plan includes which pronouns the child preferred, which bathrooms the child would use, and “expectations regarding accommodations for any overnight trips.” According to Leon County Schools, “fewer than 10 [students] in a district of 33,000” have student support plans.

Littlejohn claims that when she asked the school for more information, the school denied her access to meetings and information and tried to withhold information about her son.

“From the time Ms. Littlejohn first emailed her son’s teacher to let our staff know about the situation, this has been handled collaboratively with clear communication. We understand that outside entities have now become involved. involved, but the family clearly instructed school staff via email to allow their son to ‘take the lead in this’ and do ‘whatever they think is best,'” said Chris Petley, communications coordinator for the Leon County Schools, in a statement to CNN “In addition, our superintendent has met with the family and committed to amending any vague or unclear policy language, which we have created a committee on and are currently working on. We really hope for a speedy outcome in this case to allow the student to continue to be successful in school.”

Florida isn't the only state pushing legislation that could be harmful to LGBTQ students.

The parents hired attorneys from the Child & Parental Rights Campaign, an organization based in Georgia and Virginia, described on its website as “a not-for-profit public interest law firm founded to defend the rights of parents to protect their children.” children of the impacts of gender identity ideology”. .”

Littlejohn did not respond to CNN requests for comment. Her attorney for the Child & Parental Rights Campaign said she was not available for an interview.

DeSantis’ spokesman told CNN that the governor’s office has not seen the email exchange, but pointed to coverage from other media outlets that reported the Leon County superintendent apologized for how the situation had been handled.

“In the initial meeting with the family, the superintendent apologized for everything the family was going through,” said Petley, communications coordinator for the school system. “He was unaware of the email instructing teachers to let the child ‘lead’. ”

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.

CNN’s Alta Spells and Sara Weisfeldt contributed to this report.

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