Colorado Parents Protest After Daughter Told to Share Bed With Male Student on School Trip

The letter states that the incident occurred this past summer on a cross-country overnight trip when the school district assigned the fifth grade girl to sleep in the same bed as a fifth grade student who is biologically male.

Attorneys at ADF argue in the letter that the policy and the practice of the school district violates the parents’ deeply held religious beliefs and their parental rights in the education and upbringing of their children, citing Supreme Court precedent on these constitutional protections.
Attorneys at ADF argue in the letter that the policy and the practice of the school district violates the parents’ deeply held religious beliefs and their parental rights in the education and upbringing of their children, citing Supreme Court precedent on these constitutional protections. (photo: Shutterstock)

Parents of an 11-year-old girl are demanding that a Colorado school district change its transgender policies after their daughter was instructed to share a bed with a biologically male 11-year-old student who identifies as a transgender girl during an overnight school trip.

The parents, Joe and Serena Wailes, sent a letter to the Jefferson County Public Schools through their attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom claiming that the school violated their constitutional rights by failing to notify them of the sleeping arrangements and not providing them with a formal opt-out option.

Attorneys at ADF argue in the letter that the policy and the practice of the school district violates the parents’ deeply held religious beliefs and their parental rights in the education and upbringing of their children, citing Supreme Court precedent on these constitutional protections. The letter also details the parents’ difficulty in getting their daughter moved to a different room when the arrangements made her “uncomfortable.”

“Parents, not the government, have the right to direct the upbringing and education of their children, and that includes making informed decisions to protect their child’s privacy,” ADF senior counsel Kate Anderson, the director of the ADF Center for Parental Rights, said in a statement.

“Schools should never hide information from parents, yet that’s exactly what JCPS officials did here,” Anderson added. “And that put the Waileses’ 11-year-old daughter in a very challenging situation where she had to choose between sleeping in the same bed with a biological boy and advocating for her privacy in front of her teachers and peers. Understandably, the Wailes family is asking JCPS to cease its practice of intentionally withholding information about rooming accommodations from parents. Every parent should have the information needed to make the best decision for their children.”

ADF legal counsel Mallory Rechtenbach told CNA that they hope to settle the dispute with the school district amicably. She said the school district could solve the issue by providing parents with an opt-out option for such sleeping arrangements when registering the children for a trip or simply ask the parents before making the arrangements. 

“If they refuse to provide a simple opt-out… [we] have to evaluate the next best steps,” Rechtenbach added.

The current policy states that, in the context of overnight trips, “in most cases, students who are transgender should be assigned to share overnight accommodations with other students that share the student’s gender identity consistently asserted at school.” It adds that “any student who is transgender or not, who has a need or desire for increased privacy, regardless of the underlying reason, should be provided with a reasonable accommodation, which may include a private room” and “under no circumstance shall a student who is transgender be required to share a room with students whose gender identity conflicts with their own.”

ADF has not yet received a response from the school district, according to Rechtenbach. CNA reached out to the school district for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication. 

An ‘Uncomfortable’ Situation

The letter states that the incident occurred this past summer on a cross-country overnight trip when the school district assigned the fifth grade girl to sleep in the same bed as a fifth grade student who is biologically male but identifies as a transgender girl. It alleges that neither the girl nor the girl’s parents knew about the arrangements beforehand but that the girl found out about the arrangements when the transgender student informed the girl on the first night of the trip.

According to the letter, the girl “was immediately uncomfortable with the prospect of sharing a room and a bed with a male, regardless of the student’s gender identity” and “snuck into the bathroom, which did not lock, and quietly called her mother.” The girl “met her mother in the lobby to share her concerns” and her mother asked a teacher and the principal if her daughter could be moved to another room.

The trip chaperones asked the girl “if they could merely move her to a different bed rather than a different room” and even though she was still uncomfortable, she “agreed to try it for one night because she was tired after a long travel day,” the letter asserts. Yet, once she moved to the other bed, another girl “offered to let [the transgender student] also switch to the bed near the air conditioner,” which forced the girl to go “into the hall and again [and tell her mother] she was uncomfortable.” 

“Despite [her] continued uneasiness with the arrangement, she was scared to speak up in front of the other students on such a contentious subject,” the letter states.

According to the letter, the girl and her mother “returned to the school chaperone and again asked for [her daughter] to be moved to a different room [and], this time, the chaperones agreed to move [the transgender student] and one other girl to a different room.”

The letter also asserts that the chaperones lied to the other roommates about why the sleeping arrangements were being changed and instructed the girl to lie as well because the transgender student’s parents said their child “was to be in ‘stealth mode,’ meaning students on the trip would not know about their child’s transgender status.”

“After JCPS disregarded [the girl’s] privacy and the Waileses’ parental rights, JCPS then silenced [the girl], thus infringing on her freedom of speech, when a JCPS teacher told the three girls that they were not allowed to tell anyone that [the student] was transgender, even though [the student] voluntarily chose to share this information,” the letter states.

The parents also have two fourth grade children who are registered to take a school trip to New York; Washington, D.C.; and Philadelphia next year, according to the letter. The attorneys are asking the school district to respond to their letter by Dec. 16 with clarification on opt-out options in the policy and assurances that such clarifications are included in the written policy going forward.

Cardinal-elect Víctor Manuel Fernández was appointed by Pope Francis on July 1, 2023, to become the next prefect for the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.

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