DAILY SIGNAL EXCLUSIVE: Overnight School Program Accused of Assigning Boys to Sleep With Girls

By Mary Margaret Olohan Published on January 12, 2024

FIRST ON THE DAILY SIGNAL: Joe and Serena Wailes revealed last month that their 11-year-old daughter was assigned to share a bed with a boy who identifies as a transgender girl on an overnight school trip. Their story has led to more parents coming forward with similar allegations, according to a new demand letter first obtained by The Daily Signal.

“There has been an outpouring of support for the Wailses from the Jefferson County community,” writes Katherine Anderson, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom and director of ADF’s Center for Parental Rights. “We have been approached by many parents who are similarly concerned about your current policy and practice. We also discovered that what happened to the Wailes family was not an isolated incident within your district.”

“In fact,” she continues, “we have spoken with other families whose children were placed in the same room with children of the opposite sex at Outdoor Lab.”

Outdoor Lab is an outdoor education program in the western United States where “students are immersed in an outdoor academic setting where they spend their time learning about themselves and how they fit into the world around them,” according to the program’s website.

The program, which did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Daily Signal, is “a distinct program within Jeffco Public Schools,” and engages about 5,000 sixth-grade students every year.

“As you know,” writes Anderson, “Outdoor Lab is a longstanding, highly anticipated, and required component of the sixth-grade curricula in JCPS.”

Anderson then revealed that ADF has received reports of sixth graders of the opposite sex being placed in the same cabin, as well as a high school counselor being placed in the same cabin as children of the opposite sex.

ADF shared with The Daily Signal that in the first scenario, sixth grade girls were placed in the same room as a sixth grade boy who identifies as a transgender girl. In the second scenario, an 18-year-old high school girl who identifies as a transgender boy was placed in the same room as sixth grade boys.

This incident involving the 18-year-old is particularly concerning, Anderson indicated, since “in addition to staying in the same cabin as sixth graders, counselors at Outdoor Lab are also in charge of supervising showers to ensure students do not take too long.”

Families are specifically asked not to visit their children during the week while they attend Outdoor Lab, according to the organization’s “Parent Packet & Packing List” materials, since this may contribute to homesickness.

Students also “do not have phone privileges,” the guidance notes.

Anderson highlighted this fact in the letter to the school district, saying: “Considering that students at Outdoor Lab cannot contact their parents during the trip, it would be up to an eleven-year-old to face this invasion of privacy alone.”

“Here,” she added, referencing the situation in which the 18-year-old biologically female counselor stayed in a cabin with sixth grade boys, “the child did not feel comfortable speaking up during the trip, and the parents did not discover this invasion of their child’s privacy until the trip ended. This cannot be the ‘individualized arrangement’ your policy envisions.”

In the Wailes’ case, their daughter was able to call her mother from the hotel bathroom to share that her bedmate was, in fact, a boy.

The Wailes family had called on the Colorado-based Jefferson County School Board and Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Tracy Dorland in early December to clarify “whether JCPS will continue this practice of intentionally withholding information about rooming accommodations from parents like the Waileses, who object to their children rooming with a student of the opposite sex, regardless of the other student’s gender identity.”

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This practice renders it impossible for these parents to make informed decisions about their children’s privacy, upbringing, and participation in school-sponsored programs,” reads their December demand letter, which The Daily Signal previously reported.

“Additionally, our clients request information related to JB R-1 and the ability to opt out of this rooming policy for all future school trips.”

The Waileses describe how their daughter, who is in fifth grade, went on a JCPS-sponsored trip to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., in June 2023. JCPS had repeatedly told parents that the boys and girls on the trip would be roomed on different floors — and chaperones told the students that boys would not even be allowed to visit the girls’ floor, as well as vice versa, according to the letter.

Serena Wailes also went on the trip, though she was not a chaperone.

The Wailes’ 11-year-old daughter, who is identified in the letter as “D.W.,” was assigned to a room with three other students, according to the demand letter. Two of these students were girls from her school, and the third student was a boy who identified as a girl (named in the letter as “K.E.M.”) who went to a different school.

D.W. and K.E.M were told that they would share a bed, and that evening, when the students were in their room together, K.E.M. reportedly revealed to the girls that he is a boy who identified as a girl.

“We were definitely not aware of that before we went on the trip,” Serena Wailes told The Daily Signal. The mother shared that this young boy was presenting as a girl, wearing girls’ clothing, and had longer hair.

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Uncomfortable at the thought of sharing both a room and her bed with a boy, D.W. snuck into the bathroom and called her mother. Then she went downstairs and met her mom in the lobby to discuss the matter.

School chaperones called one of the trip leaders, Principal Ryan Lucas, who called the boy’s parents, according to the letter. “K.E.M.’s parents confirmed their child’s transgender gender identity and that K.E.M. was to be in ‘stealth mode,’ meaning students on the trip would not know about their child’s transgender status,” the letter reads.

After a good deal of trouble, chaperones finally agreed to move the male student, with a different female student, to another room.

“Throughout the entire evening, K.E.M.’s privacy and feelings were always the primary concern of JCPS employees,” the letter states. “After JCPS disregarded D.W.’s privacy and the Waileses’ parental rights, JCPS then silenced D.W., thus infringing on her freedom of speech, when a JCPS teacher told the three girls that they were not allowed to tell anyone that K.E.M. was transgender, even though K.E.M. voluntarily chose to share this information.”

According to the demand letter, the school district’s policy is, “in most cases,” to room students based on the gender they identify as, rather than their sex.

The Wailes parents have two fourth-grade children registered to attend a trip to New York, Washington, and Philadelphia in 2024, and they emphasize in their letter that the district must clarify its policies for room assignments for students, as well as parental ability to opt children out of sharing rooms with children of the opposite sex.

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In the Thursday demand letter, ADF expresses concerns that the school district failed to state whether parents can opt their children out of any policy that rooms children by their gender identity rather than their biological sex.

Jeffco Public Schools had responded to ADF on Dec. 21, according to a letter reviewed by The Daily Signal, claiming that neither the supervising chaperones nor the private tour operator knew that the student in question was a boy who identified as a transgender girl.

ADF responds by asserting, “That’s not the relevant question here. This was a Jefferson County-sponsored trip, so the district’s knowledge, rather than that of the individual teachers on the trip, is pertinent.”

“Policy JB-R requires that the ‘school shall maintain a mandatory permanent student record that includes a student’s legal name and legal gender,’” ADF continues. “Therefore, even if the student ‘enrolled for the trip as a female,’ the district’s permanent record still reflects the student’s male sex. The district knew about the student’s sex and allowed the student’s parents to choose whether their child was roomed with male or female students. Our clients are merely asking for similar treatment. They would like the same opportunity to decide whether their daughter is roomed with male or female students.”

“Your stated policy allowed one family to make an informed decision beforehand, while the Waileses were not given that consideration,” the letter continues.

 

Copyright 2023 The Daily Signal

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