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Elementary school's emails reveal secret effort to hide students' gender transitions from parents

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MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images

A Colorado elementary school's private emails, obtained through an open records request, revealed that school officials devised a secret plan to hide students' gender transitions from parents.

According to screenshots of the email exchange shared by Nicole Solas, a senior fellow with Independent Women's Forum, an elementary school assistant principal in the Poudre School District in Fort Collins, Colorado, requested guidance from the district on how to address students whose parents explicitly instructed school officials not to use their child's preferred pronouns and chosen name.

Laurel Elementary School Assistant Principal Amanda Pawelski contacted PSD's Chief Equity and Academic Officer Marlena Gross-Taylor on March 31, 2022, asking how school staff could support gender-questioning students while still being "covered legally."

"I'm wondering about what to do when an elementary school student has expressed their pronouns and chosen name but their parents directly tell school staff not to call the student by those pronouns," Pawelski wrote to Gross-Taylor. "I feel very strongly about supporting the student but have heard that we legally have to follow the parents' direction due to the age of the child (elementary school)."

Pawelski stated that she was told that "this is different in secondary schools due to legal determination ages."

"Then tonight I asked about this in the ABCs training, and I was told it makes no difference if elementary or secondary and that the law doesn't make that distinction, that we should follow the student not the parents," Pawelski's email continued. "I'd like to be able to have a more definitive answer than I've experienced and want to know how to direct my teachers as well."

The assistant principal added that the school wants to "support the student" while also being "covered legally."

Gross-Taylor forwarded Pawelski's email to the district's LGBTQIA+ Coordinator, Shayna Seitchik, and another school official named Darcie Votipka.

In an email to Gross-Taylor, Seitchik explains that she and Darcie met to discuss the assistant principal's inquiry.

"Darcie and I met to discuss this and both agree that the school should use the student's affirming name and pronouns at the school and use their legal name and corresponding pronouns when talking with the family until they are supportive of the student's new name and pronouns," Seitchik stated.

"Darcie let me know that in the past, she connected with the previous legal team on this for guidance and they were in support of this," Seitchik added.

On April 5, 2022, Gross-Taylor responded to Pawelski and advised her to use the students' preferred pronouns and chosen name at school and their legal name and pronouns when talking with the students' family members.

Pawelski followed up with Seitchik to clarify if school officials are legally allowed to call students by their preferred pronouns and chosen name even when their parents have explicitly stated not to do so.

"Does this also apply to cases of using a student's chosen name when a parent has directly said not to do that?" Pawelski asked. "I want to make sure we're still covered if we use the student's chosen name in school, even in this case."

In a Twitter thread, Solas stated, "Emails reveal @Poudreschools started secretly transitioning K-5 students last year by using students' preferred names & pronouns at school but legal names with parents."

The district responded to the allegations by stating, "Although Poudre School District will not comment on specific students, the full email thread that was provided through a November 2022 open records request does show that the school responded affirmatively to the family that the child was using a preferred name and pronoun while at school when asked directly. This is clearly stated in the March 31, 2022, email."

"No staff lied to or deceived parents," the district added. "We stand by our staff who work tirelessly to support students and families."

Solas fired back at the district's comments on Twitter, "You clearly stated in the email that staff should ignore and defy parents who don't want their kids brainwashed with fake identities. Your very response deceives not just parents but the entire American public."

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