Wendell Perez, the Florida dad of a trans child, is filing a lawsuit against the school district, which he claims coerced his child into changing their gender identity.
According to media reports, Perez’s 12-year-old son, who was assigned a female gender identity at birth, did not come out as trans to his family but was known to be transitioning socially — that is, he had taken a new name and new pronouns — to faculty members at his school.
Perez told reporters that he and his wife were not made aware of their child’s transition until the child tried to commit suicide at school two times in as many days.
In the lawsuit seeking unspecified damages, Perez claims school administrators violated his “parental rights” by keeping his son’s gender identity a secret.
Child Attempts Suicide Twice in 2 Days
According to local reports, Wendell Perez and his wife Maria were called by administrators Paterson Elementary School on Jan. 5, who asked them to come to the school as soon as possible.
“We met with the principal, the assistant principal and the police officer, and the counselor who informed us that our 12-year old-daughter, this is an elementary-schooler, had tried to commit suicide at school by hanging herself twice in two days,” Perez told reporters on Thursday.
The father said that school counselor Destiney Washington believed the child was distressed over “a gender identity issue.”
“I asked why my daughter had tried to commit suicide. [Washington] said because of her identity issues,” Perez said.
“I asked what those were and she said, ‘well, you know, she wants to be called this, and she wants these pronouns,’ and she said, ‘because she knows that you guys are not going to accept her because of your religious beliefs,’” Perez told reporters, adding that he and his wife are Catholic.
His son was checked in to an inpatient mental health clinic after attempting suicide and has since returned home.
Wendell Perez Files Lawsuit
Through the “Child and Parental Rights Campaign,” an anti-trans litigation nonprofit, Perez reportedly filed a civil suit seeking unspecified damages for violation of his “parental rights.”
According to the legal complaint obtained by the Daily Mail, the 12-year-old had spoken with Washington and possibly other school staff on multiple occasions about their gender identity, without Perez’s knowledge. Eventually, the school faculty asked students to begin referring to the boy using his preferred name and pronouns, the report added.
Perez doesn’t believe his child is trans, but instead thinks Washington and other Paterson Elementary staff “groomed [him] to [be] something that [he’s] not.”
“They basically created a double life for my daughter,” he said. “’There should be no secrets. That’s a red flag. When there are secrets, that’s a red flag.”
In a statement to First Coast News, Clay County school district administrators responded to the lawsuit and to Perez’s pretrial press tour.
“The district has performed a thorough and complete investigation into this matter as it was presented to us and has determined that the allegations made by [Perez’s lawyers] are completely false, fabricated, and appear to be intended solely for the purpose of inciting the public,” officials wrote.
“All employees of the district consistently work to ensure that the best interests of all students are served. The district will have no further comment on this matter,” the statement concluded.
Suicide is not the answer. If you or a loved one is struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for free, 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255.
Alternatively, the Trans Lifeline’s Hotline is a peer-support phone service run by trans people for our trans and questioning peers. If you need someone trans to talk to, even if you’re not in crisis or if you’re not sure you’re trans, call the Hotline at 1-877-565-8860.