Imagine If This Was Your 11-Year-Old Daughter | Erika Sanzi

“Her bedmate informed her that he was a boy who identifies as transgender.  She actually got along really well with the other student, but just felt uncomfortable with the idea of being in bed with a biological boy.”

These are the words of the mom of an 11-year-old student from Jefferson County, Colorado who was expected to share a hotel bed with a female-identifying male student on a school trip to Washington DC and Philadelphia. Because students were assigned four to a room and the rooms had two beds, the expectation was that students would share beds and, in the case of this 11-year-old, she was to share a bed with a male. Because the transgender student was from a different school and likely still hadn’t gone through puberty, the three girls assigned to the same hotel room had no idea that their fourth roommate was male.

The plan was for them to spend the night with a boy who they believed to be a girl. 

Now imagine being this 11-year-old girl’s dad. You’ve sent her on a school sponsored trip to see the sights in the nation’s capital and Philadelphia and you find out that she has snuck away to call her mom, your wife, because she’s uncomfortable about sharing her assigned bed with someone she just found out was a boy. 

I caution you against thinking this could never happen to your daughter. As all you dads prepare to send your kids back to school after winter break, there is something you need to know: these gender policies are the norm now. The time has long passed to have our heads in the sand about the policies governing our own schools—the brutal truth is that most schools in the United States now have board approved policies that are hard to believe because of how insane and indefensible they are. The days of ‘there’s no way that can be true’ are long gone. It’s true. Please don’t shoot the messenger. 

School districts and state departments of education have specific language in their policies about overnight field trips and the right to be assigned a room and roommates based on gender identity. These policies also include language about how the other students in the room (and their parents) have no right to be notified. Students are expected to change their clothes and sleep in the same room and share a bed with a member of the opposite sex without their knowledge or consent. Parents are kept in the dark about all of this. 

Here’s the policy from the state of Oregon:

​​"Gender expansive students should be treated consistent with their gender identity on any school trips, including in assignment of overnight accommodations. Schools should consult with the gender expansive student to proactively address any safety and access concerns the student has, which can include room assignments or roommates, booking additional accommodations, and ensuring facilities access at all travel destinations. Schools should also take the safety of gender expansive students into account when planning travel locations."

Notice that, per this written policy, the safety concerns only apply to the “gender expansive” student.

There is no mention of safeguarding for the students expected to go along with these sleeping arrangements. 

Here’s the policy language from the state of Vermont: "As a general rule, in any other circumstances where students are separated by gender in school activities (i.e. overnight field trips), students should be permitted to participate in accordance with their gender identity." 

Here’s the policy language in Fairfax County, Virginia: “When an instructional or extra-curricular event requires students to be accommodated overnight, students may be assigned to a room consistent with the student’s gender identity.”  

A small sampling of districts with the same policy include Seattle Public Schools, Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, Sacramento City Unified School District in California, Charlotte-Mecklenberg Schools in North Carolina, Barrington and Bristol-Warren in Rhode Island and the RSU 2 school district in Maine. 

Most districts and state departments of education have basically the same policy but they deliberately keep the wording a bit more vague— in states like California and Massachusetts and districts like Tucscon, Arizona, the language does not specifically mention overnight field trips but it’s hard to imagine any other interpretation. Gender identity is king now. 

Students must be permitted to participate in such activities or conform to such rule, policy, or practice consistent with their gender identity.

The reality about gender policies in schools is hard to believe but the time for denial and avoidance is over. I understand the inclination to think “this can’t possibly be true” because I was saying that just a few short years ago. The sad and sneaky fact is that it has become  the norm for school district and statewide policies to allow students to participate in any and all activities based on gender identity and that includes sleeping arrangements on overnight field trips. No matter how crazy and unsafe it sounds, it’s true. We can't fix it until more people acknowledge that it's true. And in the majority of school districts across the country, it's true.

Written by
Erika Sanzi is a mom of three teenage boys, a former educator, former school board member and a long time education advocate. She is currently the director of outreach at Parents Defending Education (founded in 2021) whose mission is to get activism and ideology out of classrooms and the free exchange of ideas back into them.