Two Brooklyn parents have filed a lawsuit against their child's public school, accusing officials of falsely accusing them of child abuse because their son flouts gender conventions.
In August, Danielle Super and Michael Davis filed a lawsuit against Public School 107 in Park Slope, New York. The lawsuit alleges that P.S. 107 officials had treated the parents' son, 5-year-old Leo Davis, with hostility because he prefers to wear female clothes and play with toys that are usually reserved for girls. The lawsuit also alleges that school officials maliciously referred the parents to child services because of his behavioral choices.
Leo reportedly exhibited an interest in clothing and toys that are associated with girls. Danielle and Michael assert that their son is "gender expansive."
Children who are gender expansive do not conform to traditional gender roles and behaviors, according to PFLAG's national glossary of LGBTQ terms. Those who are gender expansive express themselves in a way that does not correspond with their gender or the concept of gender at all.
In their lawsuit against P.S. 107, Leo's parents allege that school officials made no effort to make him feel welcome in his kindergarten classroom despite their recommendations for reading materials and that their child felt alienated from his peers as a result of the confusion.
Danielle and Michael alleged that P.S. 107's principal, Eve Litwack, told them during a meeting in October 2016 that it would have been easier to accommodate Leo if he was transgender. Leo reportedly has not been asked to be identified as a girl.
In December 2016, one parent reportedly told Leo's teacher, Sheri Silverstein, that she had overhead Leo telling his classmates that someone "drinks out of my penis."
The parent reportedly added that she believed Leo was only making a juvenile joke because when she asked him if he was referring to his dog, he responded: "No, I mean my mom. My parents eat my poop."
Superintendent Anita Skop of District 15 ordered Litwack to report Danielle to New York Administration for Children's Services. Danielle was investigated for child abuse, a charge that was later dismissed as baseless. Leo has since been moved to a different school.
Attorney Allegra L. Fishel, who is representing Danielle and Michael in the lawsuit against P.S. 107, asserted that Leo's classroom joke would not have prompted an investigation if officials were not prejudiced against his lifestyle choices.
"The principal reported them because she believed that this family was somehow aberrant," Fishel said.
Danielle, who will have the accusation of child abuse on her record for up to 10 years, added: "They distorted an innocent remark into a false allegation because they were deeply uncomfortable with us as a family."
Department of Education spokesperson Toya Holness defended the school officials for contacting child services, noting that they are bound by law to report any suspicion of abuse.
"Schools must be welcoming and nurturing places, and we provide training and resources to ensure students and staff attend school in a safe, supportive and inclusive learning environments," Holness said. "DOE staff members are mandated reporters and have a legal obligation to refer any suspicion of child abuse, maltreatment or neglect for investigation."