If Erin Lee had known what her 12-year-old daughter would be exposed to during an afterschool “art club” last May, she would have never allowed her to go.
It began innocently enough. Lee received a text from her daughter asking if she could stay late for an “art club” at Wellington Middle School near Fort Collins, Colorado.
What happened next, though, would change their lives forever.
The “art club” was actually a meeting of the school’s Genders & Sexualities Alliance (GSA) club, a group dedicated to supporting homosexuality, transgenderism, and other nontraditional ideas about gender and sexuality.
When the leader told Amanda (name changed to protect the minor) she must be “queer” if she didn’t feel sexually attracted to anybody, and that she must be “transgender” if she didn’t feel fully comfortable in her own body, the shy little girl suspected something wasn’t right.
According to Amanda, that same leader told her not to tell her parents about what would be discussed that day.
The woman in charge, Kimberly Chambers, who works as a “health equity initiatives coordinator” for Larimer County and director of the pro-LGBT organization SPLASH Youth of Northern Colorado, also handed out her personal contact information to the children and urged them to contact her anytime.
Chambers’s organization has boasted of teaching children ages 12 to 16 about “polyamory”—relationships with multiple sexual partners simultaneously—and other controversial ideas.
During the afterschool GSA club, according to Amanda, Chambers explained to the children that their family homes may not be a “safe space,” but that there were “resources” available. She also handed out transgender flags and stickers that Amanda understood were supposed to represent the children in the club.
As soon as Lee picked up her daughter at school, it was clear that something was “off,” the mother told The Epoch Times in a series of interviews about the incident.
Amanda, looking confused, showed her mother the transgender paraphernalia she had received from Chambers. The transgender flag represented her, Amanda told her mom.
“My heart started racing and my mind blacked out,” Lee recounted. “I was in so much shock that I struggled to get out any words.”
Even though the GSA leader at school had told Amanda it was OK to lie to her parents, Amanda knew better. Over the days that followed, she told her parents everything, Lee said.
Amanda’s parents could hardly believe what they were hearing. Lee, who has described herself as an “ally of the LGBTQ community” and said she has a history of voting “pretty progressively on social issues,” was appalled.
But that would be just the beginning of an ordeal that continues to haunt the family.
Amanda never went back to the school after that. Instead, her parents put her in a local Christian school, even though it meant Lee would have to work nights to afford it. But as Lee and her husband saw it, there was no other choice.
Despite that Amanda was pulled out of Wellington Middle School, the family’s difficulties grew.
After the lesson, Amanda began to wonder whether she might truly be queer and transgender. Her mental state began to rapidly deteriorate, her mother said.
Multiple family members confirmed to The Epoch Times that prior to what Lee describes as the “grooming” of her daughter at school, Amanda never showed any signs of “gender dysphoria,” the term used by psychiatrists to describe discomfort with one’s biological sex.
Afterward, though, it was hard for the girl to shake the idea.
Lee and her husband, who was outraged by the ordeal, struggled for months with how to talk to their daughter about what had happened.
“We didn’t want to say something that would push her further into this dark hole or further into this transgender label,” Lee said. “And we did exactly what the trusted adults who indoctrinated her told her we would do. We played right into their narrative.”
Weeks after the incident, as her mental state got worse, the parents decided to take Amanda to a therapist. The therapist also ended up being “queer” and sought to affirm the young girl’s confusion about her gender.
By December, between the COVID isolation and the questions surrounding her gender, Amanda’s mental state was spiraling downward, Lee said.
The pediatrician immediately prescribed powerful psychotropic drugs for depression—medications that Amanda has since been weaned from—in an attempt to deal with the crisis.
“I don’t know if that fear will ever go away,” Lee said about her own concerns. “I don’t expect to ever stop being struck with sadness about what happened.”
The more she thought about the whole ordeal, the more Lee realized she had to do something.
First, she contacted Chambers, the woman who Lee says “groomed” her daughter and who also sometimes works as a substitute teacher for the district. “Her response was alarming,” Lee said. “It was delusional. She doubled down on her actions.”
Next, she contacted the principal, who seemed empathetic but confirmed that secret GSA meetings with children were an intentional part of creating a “safe space” at school.
There are more than two dozen self-proclaimed LGBT children in the small middle school, according to social media posts by SPLASH. And the district is determined that they be “affirmed” without parental involvement, Lee said.
After all that, Lee spoke out at a school board meeting and contacted all its members by email. None responded. When she was finally able to sit down with two of them, they both “supported everything that transpired and refused to address any of my concerns.”
Finally, exasperated and realizing her first call would have been to the police if this had occurred on a playground or any other setting, Lee contacted the sheriff’s office.
While law enforcement was deeply sympathetic to her plight, and urged her to speak out loudly, there was nothing they could do from a legal perspective, Lee said.
District officials, meanwhile, saw nothing wrong with what had occurred, she said. Indeed, some expressed shock that a parent would be upset over the incident.
As Lee fought back, school officials were working on their next move.
Among other tactics, documents and communications obtained by The Epoch Times revealed a discussion about the possibility of reporting the parents to child-welfare authorities.
When Chambers was informed by the art teacher that Amanda’s parents had not been sending her to school since the incident, Chambers wrote back urging her to consider filing a report and have child-protection officials visit the home.
“If that persists, you’ll want to talk to admin about doing a well-child check or whatever is within the policies of the school,” Chambers wrote, describing upset parents as “barriers” and citing an “extreme case” in which a family did not allow their transgender child to leave the home unsupervised.
Lee was flabbergasted after receiving the documents.
“I knew this woman was evil, but I didn’t see this coming,” she said. “This teacher and Kimberly [Chambers] forced us to pull our child out of school by creating an unsafe environment, then discussed sending CPS into our home because we pulled her out, at our most vulnerable moment as a family—that they caused.
“If my child had indicated that we were not affirming her pronouns and trans identity, I believe the authorities would’ve taken our child away. And everyone involved knew this.”
District and LGBT Activists Respond
The Epoch Times reached out to Chambers for comment, asking whether she considered nonaffirmation of a child’s gender ideas to be abuse, and seeking confirmation about the story details.
“Given the private nature of this specific youth and family’s needs, I’d like to share with you a couple of Colorado and National resources around gender identity to help inform your article rather than provide any comment,” she said before providing a number of links on transgenderism and legal issues.
Wellington Middle School referred inquiries to the district. A message left on the principal’s phone wasn’t immediately returned.
Poudre School District Executive Director of Communications Madeline Noblett told The Epoch Times that the district couldn’t comment on “specific student matters.”
When asked about policies on getting child protection services involved in cases such as Amanda’s, Noblett noted that all district staff are “mandated reporters” under Colorado law. That means they are required to report suspected child abuse.
Noblett didn’t respond to follow-up questions about district policy on whether parents’ refusal to support their children transitioning to a new gender constitutes abuse.
“It is the role of the Department of Human Services to investigate the suspected/reported case; to determine whether the child is safe; to determine if abuse occurred; and to provide appropriate services to the family,” she said.
However, the district aims to “create and uphold equitable, inclusive, and rigorous educational opportunities, outcomes, and experiences for all students,” she said.
“As a district, we are committed to making our schools safe spaces in which all students can learn,” Noblett said, adding that the district has “a LGBTQIA+ coordinator who works to advance the resources, support, inclusion, and advocacy of LGBTQIA+ students, staff, and families.”
“Gay Straight Alliances were established as safe spaces for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, allies, and any individual to come together with the goals of ensuring inclusivity, safety, and support,” Noblett said.
When asked how GSA adult leaders were trained, the communications director said there were no training requirements to lead any club in the district. However, GSA leaders could use resources from the GSA network and from One Colorado, the network’s state affiliate.
Gillian Ford of One Colorado didn’t specifically address questions from The Epoch Times about how GSA adult leaders are trained, whether it’s standard practice to tell children not to talk to their parents about these issues, or whether the escalating parental outrage was appropriate.
“Schools are often places where LGBTQ+ young people don’t feel safe or included,” said Ford, whose pronouns are listed as “she, her, hers” in her email signature.
“Since 2011, One Colorado has worked with both statewide education associations, as well as local educators, parents, and students to create and sustain the Colorado Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) Network to support and empower LGBTQ+ young people and their allies against the bullying, harassment, homophobia, and transphobia in their schools.”
National and State Trends
What happened to the Lee family in Northern Colorado is hardly an isolated incident.
The Epoch Times spoke with other families across the nation who had similar experiences, but almost none were willing to go on record due to fears of retaliation by government officials and activists.
While the American College of Pediatricians describes teaching children that it’s normal or healthy to impersonate the opposite sex as “child abuse,” larger and more established associations have taken a different approach.
A new “puberty guide” for children between 9 and 12 published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) claims that boys can menstruate and that girls can experience erections.
“Most babies who are born with a penis grow up feeling like a boy on the inside too. That’s called being cisgender (cis- means ‘same’),” the guide states. “But there are some babies born with a penis who grow up feeling like a girl on the inside. That’s called being transgender (trans- means ‘cross’ or ‘opposite’).”
According to a recent report published in the journal Pediatrics, almost 1 in 10 children surveyed now identify as “gender diverse,” far more than traditionally believed.
Other surveys show even higher numbers. One from UCLA found that more than one-fourth of California teens were viewed by peers as “gender non-conforming.”
Those numbers are rising rapidly.
Pam Benigno, director of the Education Policy Center at Colorado’s free-market think tank the Independence Institute, told The Epoch Times that she has heard numerous “disturbing stories” from parents across the state about their children coming home from school confused about their gender.
“I spoke with a dad who told me that without his knowledge, staff from his daughter’s middle school drafted a transition plan for his daughter to become a male,” Benigno said. “This is not uncommon. In fact, teachers have been ordered not to tell parents if students take on a new identity while at school.”
Districts across the state, under the guise of being “inclusive,” are “pushing a radical-left agenda on children” and have even “adopted the nonscientific theory that gender identity is fluid,” she said.
This includes hiring “queer” organizations to smash traditional notions of normalcy in the minds of students, she added.
A recently published paper by The Independence Institute aims at helping parents ensure transparency in school curricula. But parents must be vigilant and protect their children from “devastating emotional and sometimes physical harm,” Benigno said.
Conservative states are no exception to the trend. In Utah, state controlled-substance data revealed a 10,000 percent increase between 2015 and 2020 in the number of minor girls undergoing medical transitions.
In Ludlow, Massachusetts, a major lawsuit by parents against the school district is alleging that education officials encouraged children to experiment with alternate gender identities and hide it from their parents.
Andrew Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, who is involved in the case, is dealing with a surge in such cases in his state.
“We see the same aggressive attack on the integrity of the parent–child relationship here in Massachusetts,” he told The Epoch Times when asked about parallels between Lee’s story and what’s taking place there.
“Many of the LGBTQ activists want to brand traditional sexual morality as ‘child abuse,’ and their accomplices in child services terrorize families who won’t just go along with this agenda,” he said, calling these sorts of policies an “appalling and dangerous violation of the rights of parents.”
“What is happening in Ludlow is part of a larger national agenda to deliberately circumvent the authority of parents over the mental health and religious beliefs of their children.
“School officials around the country are secretly affirming, or even promoting, discordant gender identities in young children.”
The Biden administration has started threatening legal action against local communities, schools, states, and other institutions that don’t submit to the transgender agenda.
Warning to Parents
As a result of the ordeal, Lee has lost all trust in the media, the government, the medical profession, and the public school system.
“Now I don’t trust a single person in the public school system,” she told The Epoch Times. “Not a single one.”
Lee said she has been in contact with numerous attorneys about the case as she considers her legal options. She is still seeking counsel.
Today, Amanda is doing much better, her parents say.
But in an effort to help protect other families from similar situations, the family has decided to continue sounding the alarm, while encouraging parents to become more aware and get more involved.
Among other suggestions, Lee is also urging parents to remove their children from public school.
“Get them into private schools if you can afford it,” she said. “Get them into homeschool co-ops or homeschool them yourself.”