Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys are representing the family of an 11-year-old girl against a Colorado school district for trying to force their daughter to share a hotel room and bed with a male student during a school trip.
The incident occurred when the student, referred to as D.W., was on a trip to Philadelphia and Washington D.C. in June 2023 with Jefferson County Public Schools, accompanied by her mother, Serena Wailes, who had come on the trip but was not a chaperone.
According to a letter sent by attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom, JCPS parents were assured by the school at multiple meetings that girls and boys would stay on separate hotel floors.
However, on the first night, one of D.W.’s roommates, K.E.M., confided to her that he was a biological male identifying as transgender. D.W. felt uncomfortable sharing a room and bed with a male student and secretly contacted her mother from the hotel bathroom.
Serena Wailes brought up her daughter’s concerns with trip chaperones – JCPS teachers and staff. They initially only offered to switch D.W. to a different bed while requiring her to lie about the reason for moving (to be closer to the air conditioner). Since they were all tired after a long day of travel, D.W. reluctantly agreed.
However, when another roommate later suggested K.E.M. also switch beds to be nearer the air conditioner, D.W. was too intimidated to object in front of her peers.
She left the room to seek her mother’s help again. Only after repeated requests did chaperones finally relocate K.E.M. and another female student to a different room, once more demanding students conceal the real reason.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys argued that throughout the process, JCPS employees followed district policies on accommodations for transgender students. However, the policies repeatedly disregarded D.W.’s discomfort and privacy concerns as an 11-year-old girl.
The Wailes family was also not informed prior to the trip that D.W. may have to room with a male classmate based on gender identity.
JCPS policies allow for keeping a transgender student’s status confidential from school staff and parents.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys say JCPS’s policy and practice “directly interfered with the Waileses’ ability to make sound judgments.”
“When JCPS kept K.E.M. in “stealth mode,” it failed to protect the privacy of all students,” the letter states.
They contended that “JCPS could have chosen a means that protects the privacy of all students by asking parents to opt-in to rooming with a student who identifies as transgender.”
Alternatively, the school could have preemptively asked for a parent’s permission for their child to room with a student who identifies as transgender without giving out any child’s identity.
What is Alliance Defending Freedom?
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, marriage and family, and the sanctity of life.
Over the past decade, ADF has won 15 cases at the U.S. Supreme Court.
ADF has created two ministry programs – Alliance Defending Freedom Church Alliance and Alliance Defending Freedom Ministry Alliance – to provide legal support and assistance directly to churches and ministries facing threats to their religious freedoms and mission.
These ADF ministry initiatives equip faith communities with training tools and resources, as well as direct legal representation when needed, to empower these groups to stand firm in the face of shifting cultural norms and legal landscapes impacting religious liberties. The goal is to allow churches and religious ministries to continue operating according to their beliefs without undue interference or legal action.
ADF Senior Counsel Kate Anderson, director of the ADF Center for Parental Rights, says 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.
“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,” Anderson said.
The Waileses are asking that Jefferson County Public Schools clarify its policy on room assignments for students on school trips – specifically whether students are roomed according to gender identity or biological sex. They are also requesting that all parents be notified of this policy beforehand on any upcoming trips, so parents can decide if they want their child to participate or opt out based on the rooming arrangements.
Learn more about Alliance Defending Freedom here: https://adfmedia.org/about-us