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JeffCo Public Schools parents claim district's transgender policy violates parental rights

Joe and Serena Wailes
Posted at 11:18 PM, Dec 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-08 19:14:48-05

DENVER — Parents allege JeffCo Public Schools' transgender policy violates their parental rights following an out-of-state trip.

Joe and Serena Wailes said their 11-year-old daughter was assigned to sleep in the same bed as a transgender girl during a June 2023 trip to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Serena said the sleeping arrangement made her daughter "uncomfortable."

"She was unknowingly assigned to share a bed with a boy who identifies as a girl," said Serena, who was on the trip with her daughter.

According to Serena, the transgender student disclosed their gender identity to her daughter right before bedtime.

"She went into the bathroom and called myself," said Serena.

Wailes said she brought the issue up to chaperons, who agreed to move the transgender student to a different room.

After returning home from the trip, the Wailes family reached out to the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative legal group known for its role in the overturning of Roe v. Wade and its representation of Jack Phillips after he refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.

The ADF penned a demand letter to the school district alleging the chaperons “lied about why" they changed the room assignments, claiming a “sick roommate needed more space.”

The parents told Denver7 they want clarity regarding the district's policies for transgender students.

"We just don't feel like it's transparent," said Joe. "And you know, we need a policy that gives the respect of all kids and respects the privacy and the rights of all kids."

Part of the district's policy states, “Under no circumstances shall a student who is transgender be required to share a room with students whose gender identity conflicts with their own.” The policy goes on to state that staff is not allowed to tell other people a child is transgender unless they're legally required to do so, or unless the student says it's OK."

"Obviously, it was very uncomfortable for an 11-year-old girl to realize she was going to be sleeping in the same bed with a student who's biologically male, even if that student identifies as a girl," said Kate Anderson, an attorney with ADF.

ADF's demand letter asks the schools to clarify its policy and address whether parents can opt out of the policy when it comes to sharing rooms. The letter states the district must respond in writing by Dec. 18.

In a statement to Denver7, Jefferson County Public Schools said it takes the situation seriously and is working with the private travel organization to learn more.

"Regarding the December 4 demand letter to Jeffco Public Schools from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF): In Jeffco Public Schools, student safety is paramount and partnership with families is a priority. We take this situation seriously. Because the district was only recently informed, and the trip occurred outside of the school year and through a private travel organization, we are still determining facts. However, it appears that the student’s transgender status was not known when room assignments were made and our understanding is that as soon as their transgender identity was known, room assignments were adjusted. We are working with the private travel organization to learn more and we anticipate a more detailed response by December 18 as ADF requests."

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