Parents sue Colorado school district over transgender lesson

The parents of three students at a Boulder County elementary school who wanted to pull their kids from lessons on transgender issues sued the Boulder Valley School District on Monday, alleging the district violated their constitutional right to religious freedom.

Lewis and Brecken Jones, who say they are Christians, filed a federal lawsuit over the school district’s handling of the incident, which began in 2018 when the parents asked that their children be exempted from a planned presentation on transgender issues at Superior Elementary School.

The presentation at the kindergarten-through-fifth-grade school had been prompted by the bullying of a transgender student, the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder reported at the time. School administrators planned to include the performance of a musical by Phoenix, Colorado’s Trans Community Choir, as well as videos on gender roles and related topics, followed by classroom discussion.

The lawsuit alleges the school district violated its own policies when administrators allowed the Jones’ children to opt out of only the musical performance, and not the videos and classroom discussion. The lawsuit also claims the district retaliated against the family by creating a hostile environment after the parents filed a formal complaint with the school district in November 2018. That complaint was supported by nine other families, the Camera reported at the time.

“Teachers were overheard at school openly maligning the families who complained about the (school’s) transgender materials,” the complaint reads. In addition to the religious freedom violations, the lawsuit also alleges the school district violated the parents’ constitutional right to raise their children as they choose.

The Jones family pulled their children from the school and are now both homeschooling the students and sending them to private schools, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit asks the school district be forced to pay the family’s expenses related to the alternate schooling, because the students would have continued to attend public schools “were it not for BVSD’s action in violation of their constitutional rights.”

An attorney for the Jones family and a spokesman for the Boulder Valley School District did not immediately return requests for comment.

Sam Bullington, founder of the choir that put on the musical performance, said Tuesday that the choir performs in schools to help change the environment for transgender youth, who are often bullied, misunderstood and targeted by their classmates. The musical the choir performed at Superior Elementary School featured animal characters and was about a transgender raven who is considered to be a girl but doesn’t feel like a girl, he said, and the raven’s journey to acceptance among friends.

“So yes, one of the parents is like, ‘This is incompatible with my Christian faith,’ and I’m like, ‘The message of the play is around the importance of unconditional love, which is the message of your faith,’” Bullington said. “The play never mentions the word transgender, it is really about being seen for who are on the inside, rather than the projections put on you based on what you look like, which is relevant to everyone.”

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