CO school emails expose secretly transitioning elementary student

Colorado elementary school is exposed for secretly transitioning student, as damning leaked internal emails reveal administrator telling assistant principal to LIE to parents

  • Emails between Laurel Elementary Assistant Principal, Amanda Pawelski, and Poudre School District Chief Equity Officer, Marlena Gross-Taylor were leaked
  • Amanda revealed an elementary school student, who was not identified, had changed their name and pronouns and wanted legal advice 
  • Marlena said the state policy was to refer to the student as their chosen identity at school and their legal identity in front of the parents  

Leaked emails from a Colorado elementary school revealed administrators going behind a parent’s back to secretly transition a student.

Laurel Elementary School Assistant Principal, Amanda Pawelski, and Poudre School District Chief Equity Officer, Marlena Gross-Taylor, were caught in leaked emails discussing going behind a parent’s back to instruct an elementary school student by their preferred pronouns. 

On March 31, 2022, Amanda reached out to Marlena, who was only a few months into her new position, about an unidentified student who has ‘expressed their pronouns and chosen name but their parents directly [told] school staff not to call the students by those pronouns.’ 

‘I feel very strongly about supporting the student, but have heard that we legally have to follow the parent’s decision due to the age of the child (elementary school),’ she wrote in the email to Marlena. 

In the same email, she revealed she learned during ‘ABCs training’ that that ‘we should follow the student, not the parents’ and asked Marlena to provide a more ‘definite answer.’ 

‘We want to support the student. We also want to be covered legally,’ she wrote. 

Laurel Elementary School Assistant Principal, Amanda Pawelski, and Poudre School District Chief Equity Officer, Marlena Gross-Taylor (pictured), were caught in leaked emails discussing going behind a parent’s back to school an elementary school student by their preferred pronouns

Amanda (pictured) was worried about the legal aspect of supporting the child, and Marlena and the district’s LGBTQIA+ Coordinator, Shayna Seitchik agreed the state law allowed the school to refer to the child by their chosen name behind the parent’s back and refer to them as their legal name in front of guardians 

Six days later, Marlena responded, confirming that ‘schools should use the student’s affirming name and pronouns 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.’ 

Marlena also referred Amanda to the district’s new LGBTQIA+ Coordinator, Shayna Seitchik, who also reiterated to Marlena that her and Darcie Votipka, the Director of Student Services for the district, agreed with using the student’s chosen pronouns and names while the parents were not present. 

Despite the consensus, Amanda seemed worried that the parent’s definite disapproval of using the chosen names and pronouns with the elementary student might prove to be an issue due to age. 

The emails, from March and April 2022, were leaked online and revealed the state’s policy was to use the student’s chosen name and pronouns regardless of age or grade-level 

‘I am wondering about the direct “do not” nature of what they said and in light of them being in elementary school. I want to make sure we are still covered if we use the student’s chosen name, even in this case?’ she wrote. 

She also revealed the student had ‘asked a few of us to be present when they came out to their mom.’ 

The mother was reportedly okay with the revelation while in the meeting, but afterward, had directed the school ‘not to continue’ to use the new name and pronouns. 

It is unclear if Marlena ever responded, as the emails post April 5 were not leaked. has reached out to Poudre School District and Marlena for comment. When Amanda was reached for comment, she referred to the PSD Communications Department for comment. 

Marlena joined the school district in January 2022, and she overlooks several departments, including Curriculum and Instruction, Professional Learning, Student Services,  Language, Culture and Equity, Career and Innovation, and Integrated Services, according to the district. 

She is a mother-of-two – Daniel, 22, and Collin, 20 – and said her boys are the perfect example of finding what a child’s passion is and ‘customizing the learning experience from there’ as her boys have always been respectively interested in marine biology and paleontology and are now studying the topics in school. 

January Littlejohn accused a Florida school last month of making a big mistake after it kept them in the dark about their 14-year-old being bullied and assaulted in the boys’ restroom – and ultimately ran away and into the hands of an abusive online groomer

Amanda won the Colorado Assistant Elementary School Principal of the Year in 2023. It is the second year a Poudre assistant teacher has won the award. 

Amanda has served as an assistant principal in the district since 2019 and has been with the district since 2013. 

The situation at Laurel is nothing new as plenty of parents across the country have been fighting to control their children’s pronouns at school. 

Last month, the parents of a 14-year-old girl who was allowed to secretly change gender at school have accused teachers of making a huge mistake by keeping them in the dark after she was bullied, assaulted in the boys’ restroom – and ultimately ran away and into the hands of an abusive online groomer.

Michele and Roger Blair told that their daughter, Sage, was allowed to change her name to Draco and use the boys’ restrooms at Appomattox County High School in central Virginia without their permission.

The couple said teachers effectively sidelined them from supporting their daughter, who suffered from depression, during her at-school transition. Ultimately, they only discovered she was trans after finding a hall pass in Draco’s name.

‘Why they didn’t tell me or at least request a parents’ meeting to this day is just way beyond my understanding,’ said Michele.

‘This school made a very poor decision that was not in my child’s best interest. And it was at the cost of my daughter’s mental health.’

Michele and Roger Blair told last year that their daughter, Sage, was allowed to change her name to Draco and use the boys’ restrooms at Appomattox County High School in central Virginia without them knowing. She ran away after her parents’ discovered she had secretly transitioned, and spent a year in court protection away from her family

Sage Blair for short time identified as the trans boy, Draco (pictured)

Such cases are becoming more common as teachers grapple with the small-but-growing number of children wanting to change gender at school, and the especially tricky ones who don’t want their parents to know about it.

In May, a mother sued a Florida school after teachers created a ‘transgender support plan’ without her consent. 

January Littlejohn said her then 13-year-old daughter had a group of friends who were ‘obsessed’ with anything to do with the LGBTQ community.

She told how when three of them began identifying as trans or non-binary her daughter said she was confused about her own gender.

She said she and her husband brought their daughter to a councilor to help her work through her confusion and began doing research to understand the subject.

But weeks later Littlejohn revealed school bosses had spoken to the youngster about changing her name and which bathroom she wanted to use.

When school resumed in 2020, Littlejohn told a teacher at the Deerlake Middle School in Tallahassee, Florida, about the situation and informed her that she and her husband were not affirming their daughter’s new preferred name and pronouns at home while they were working through her feelings, and that they did not feel that transitioning was in her best interest.

Parents are clashing with teachers across the US over whether transgender teenagers can transition in classrooms without their knowledge – and most cases are not always solved in the principals’ office, and often end up in court. Some states have put safeguards in place – in Virginia, a lawmaker is proposing a law to ensure parents are made aware. And in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis has cracked down on teacher gender identity with the Parental Rights in Education Act

Littlejohn also told the teacher that she was okay with her daughter adopting her preferred name as a nickname at school.

But weeks later Littlejohn said after one day school her daughter happily told her she had spoken with officials about changing her name, and they’d asked her which bathroom she wanted to use.

Aghast by the discussion the school had had with her daughter without parental consent, Littlejohn called them immediately and asked them about it.

She was told by the school guidance councilor and vice-principal that they could not disclose what had been talked about in the meeting, and that Littlejohn’s daughter needed to give consent by-law for her parents to be informed about or be present for future discussions.

‘My 13-year-old daughter who can’t vote, drink, or enter into any other legal contract without our permission or input,’ Littlejohn said in 2021.

Littlejohn says that after several weeks of back-and-forths with the school district, the principal finally showed her a ‘transgender non conforming student support plan’ that the school had filled out with her daughter.

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