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CO school district hides student overnight rooming policy from parents

ADF attorneys represent family after 11-year-old girl was supposed to share bed with male student on school trip
Joe and Serena Wailes

DENVER – Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter Monday to Jefferson County Public Schools on behalf of Colorado parents to inform the district that its policy of hiding information from parents and lying to students is unconstitutional. ADF attorneys are representing Joe and Serena Wailes and their 11-year-old daughter after she was assigned to share a room, and supposed to share a bed, with a male student on an overnight school trip without their knowledge.

The JCPS policy states that students who identify as the opposite sex should be “assigned to share overnight accommodations with other students that share the student’s gender identity consistently asserted at school.” The policy also demands that “under no circumstance” should a student who identifies as the opposite sex be required to share a room with students of the same sex, but as ADF attorneys explain in the letter, that provision is not equally extended to other students like the Waileses’ daughter who does not want to share a room with a student of the opposite sex. ADF attorneys note how this policy violates the Waileses’ religious beliefs, the parental rights of all parents in the district, and the privacy rights of all students.

“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,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kate Anderson, director of the ADF Center for Parental Rights. “Schools should never hide information from parents, yet that’s exactly what JCPS officials did here. 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.”

In the summer of 2023, on a cross-country overnight trip to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., JCPS assigned the Waileses’ daughter to share a room with a fifth-grade male student who identifies as a girl without notifying the Waileses’ daughter or her parents or getting their consent. The Waileses’ daughter only found out because the male student told her on the first night of the trip. She was uncomfortable about the prospect of sharing a bed with a male student. The girl shared her concerns with her mother, who accompanied her on the trip, and together, they met with a teacher who was acting as a chaperone.

The school chaperone asked the Waileses’ daughter if they could merely move her to a different bed rather than a different room. While she was still uncomfortable with this arrangement, she agreed to try it for one night. JCPS officials then decided to lie to her roommates, and instructed the Waileses’ daughter to do the same, telling her to say she needed to switch beds to be closer to the air conditioner. But once the chaperone and her were back in the room, the Waileses’ daughter was again placed in a difficult position when another girl in the room suggested the male student also switch to the bed near the air conditioner.

Despite the Waileses’ daughter’s continued uneasiness with the arrangement, she was scared to speak up in front of her peers on such a contentious subject and did not want the male student to feel uncomfortable. So, she went into the hall and again told her mother she was not comfortable sharing a bed with a male student. She and her mother returned to the school chaperone and again asked for her to be moved to a different room. This time, JCPS chaperones relented and moved the male student and one of the other girls to a different room, but again lied to the other girls and said the move was to give a sick roommate more space. As ADF attorneys explain in their letter, throughout the evening, the male student’s privacy and feelings were the only concern of JCPS employees. The Waileses want to ensure that all students’ privacy and feelings are considered, and notifying parents of the JCPS overnight policy would accomplish that. Instead, JCPS hides the information from parents disregarding student privacy and parental rights.

The Waileses have two younger children, fourth-grade twins, who are registered to attend the same overnight school trip next year. The planning and fundraising have already begun. The Waileses are requesting JCPS clarify its policy regarding room assignments for students and state whether parents of all students will be informed that children will be roomed by gender identity rather than sex before a trip begins so every parent has the opportunity to make the best decision for their child and, if desired, opt their children out of such a policy.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

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Kate Anderson
Kate Anderson
Senior Counsel, Director of Center for Parental Rights
Kate Anderson serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where she is the director of the Center for Parental Rights.