Anti-LGBT Group Admits It Invented Story About Transgender Student Harassing Classmates [UPDATED]

Conservative media has been quite exercised this week by a story about a transgender student at Florence High School in Colorado allegedly harassing girls in the locker room. The Pacific Justice Institute, a California-based anti-LGBT group, spurred the media focus by sending a letter to the school demanding accommodation for the supposed victims. Cristan Williams at The TransAdvocate debunked the story by speaking directly with Superintendent Rhonda Vendetti, who explained that no harassment took place — a few parents just don’t like that a transgender student is being allowed to use the locker room of the gender with which she identifies. Now, PJI has basically admitted they invented the story because they’re just transphobic.

One of PJI’s responses came through the conduit of attorney Cathy Brennan, a mouthpiece for a fringe group of transphobic feminists who do not believe that trans people exist and that any attempt to recognize or respect them is an attack on all women. Here’s the message she delivered to The TransAdvocate on behalf of PJI*:

We’ve seen similar claims. It is our position that the intrusion of a biological male into a restroom for teenage girls is inherently intimidating and harassing. We have received additional reports of particular incidents of harassment, and we are working to corroborate those reports. In our letter, we specifically asked the school to notify us immediately if they disputed any of the factual allegations. To date, they have not done so. The core of this story — that the school is elevating the rights of one self-proclaimed transgender student while minimizing the privacy rights of all the biologically female students, has not been seriously controverted. We encourage journalists to continue their important work of investigating the details of this story independently and not simply accepting the statements of either side, and certainly not pulling their stories simply because activists demand this story be silenced.

PJI staff attorney Matthew McReynolds, who drafted the letter the group sent to the school, similarly explained the case to Alec Torres at the National Review:

Matthew McReynolds, staff attorney for the Pacific Justice Institute, told me that “the core issue is that this school is giving this transgender youth full access to both boys’ and girls’ facilities, and they are showing little if any regard for the privacy rights of other students. . . . We have received additional reports of specific, inappropriate statements made by this student, and we are working to corroborate those reports.”

“We’re standing by our allegations that our student clients have been threatened with retaliation by school officials for talking about this, including [the threat of] being kicked off athletic teams,” he said. ”[School officials] have also thrown around the notion that hate crimes could be charged against students just for talking about this.”

In other words, as far as PJI is concerned, it doesn’t matter if the transgender student actually did anything to harass these girls. Simply by entering the girls’ locker room, she was “inherently intimidating and harassing” the other girls who use it. And further, even though PJI’s claims of actual harassment have been debunked, the group sill insists that the story is true simply because they sent a letter about it and the school didn’t reply — which it has no obligation to do.


The Pacific Justice Institute’s embrace of blatant anti-LGBT positions is not new. They wholeheartedly promote ex-gay therapy, believing that homosexuality is caused by sexual abuse, and they even filed a lawsuit challenging California’s ban on ex-gay therapy for minors. They lost. They are also working to repeal California’s new law protecting transgender students, eagerly seeking victims like the ones they are trying to invent in this Colorado school.


The Pacific Justice Institute has posted an updated press release defending their attack on Florence High School for its respect of this transgender student. Claiming that transgender advocates are in “near panic” and “full damage control mode,” PJI President Brad Dacus confirms that the group’s objection is merely the fact that a trans student was allowed to use the facility with which she identifies:

DACUS:Transgender activists are in full damage control mode because they know how explosive and damaging to their cause this story is. The central issue in this case — a high school’s decision to give a biological teenage boy full access to teenage girls’ bathrooms is both disturbing and not seriously disputed. It is very revealing that the Superintendent is seeking sympathy from transgender activists instead of addressing the serious concerns raised in our letter.

Though PJI boasts that it represents “students and their families whose privacy rights are being violated,” the word “harassment” is noticeably absent.


*Brennan has informed ThinkProgress that she has “absolutely no relationship with the Pacific Justice Institute.”