Last February a group of California parents discovered that their elementary school children were subjected to an extremely uncomfortable situation when allegedly forced to bunk with nonbinary counselors at a four-day camping trip to an outdoor science retreat. The camp vehemently denies the accusations, but the school district is where parents identified the real problem.
The Pali Institute is a Southern California staple. Elementary schools from across the region regularly organize three- and four-day science retreats with the camp. Most children who grow up in Southern California have a Pali story in their history. It has been a beloved learning retreat for decades.
However, parents from Los Alamitos Unified School District (LAUSD) were perplexed when their children came home from the science camp and some claimed “nonbinary” adults (biologically male) slept in the cabins with female students, some as young as 10 years old. They also say the children were subject to “verbal abuse” from one such counselor.
Several parents from the Los Alamitos Unified School District in California have expressed concerns with a recent four-day, elementary school camping trip to the Pali Institute — the largest outdoor education program in the country — in which nonbinary, adult counselors allegedly slept in cabins with girls between the ages of 10 and 11.
One parent is alleging that one such nonbinary counselor, or a counselor who identified as they/them, engaged in verbal abuse with a group of girls in one cabin.
The camp owner, Andy Wexler, purports that the verbal abuse has been addressed, although there are no details on how. However, Wexler also claims that they do no allow girls to bunk with “nonbinary” male counselors.
Andy Wexler, who has owned the outdoor program for 32 years, says staff has since addressed issues with that counselor.
Wexler also said with certainty that no girls were housed with biological males who identified as they/them, contradicting earlier stories claiming the nonbinary counselors were biologically male, based on one parent’s account.
Some parents are contradicting the claims, and now they’re filing a legal complaint against their school district. Civil rights firm Lex Rex Institute has taken on the case, led by founder and President Alexander Haberbush. In a recent podcast interview, Haberbush says that the parents don’t hold Pali responsible, even if they are uncomfortable with the idea of nonbinary camp counselors. They believe that the school district had a duty to notify families of the situation, particularly after it was obvious the students were “exposed to ideas like preferred pronouns and gender identity.” Instead, the district has obfuscated and delayed sharing information with concerned parents.
[One 11-year-old girl] asked – I guess it wasn’t obvious from the way the camp counselor looked – “Are you a boy or a girl?” which makes sense. [She was probably thinking] “I don’t really want to stay in a cabin with a boy,” and the counselor answered, “I prefer they/them pronouns.” So, that’s the kind of campus it was. It was very obvious if you look on their online advertising material. They were one of the top rated LGBTQ retreats. If you went on their Yelp page, there was complaint after complaint from past parents, saying this is an LGBTQ propaganda camp.”
*Hear the entire interview below, or wherever you find your podcasts.
Haberbush’s client, Rachel Sandoval, says she didn’t find out about the situation until nearly 10 days later because her young daughter had been too traumatized to know how to talk about it. He reports that the parents don’t understand why the school district wouldn’t just tell them their children would be exposed to controversial gender ideology at a camp meant to explore science and the outdoors.
“Maybe [the district] could even say, “We thought that it was good to teach those things, for xyz reason” but they don’t do that. Instead they stall the parents and refused to answer their questions for about a month.”
The Long Beach-based attorney says parents had a long list of questions for their district and have been met with silence.
Why had the school selected this particular camp? What sort of investigation took place before picking it? Had anyone even done an online search? Why had the school failed to tell parents what sort of camp it was? Were our daughters housed with biological men?
We have yet to obtain answers to most of these questions. Instead, the school stonewalled parents for months, even going so far as to claim that answering them was illegal.
Haberbush has filed a lawsuit against the school district, on behalf of representative parents of LAUSD, claiming the district had no right to withhold this information from parents.
No parent should be considered irrelevant when it comes to the safety and upbringing of their child. Parents have the right to know who will be in private spaces with their young daughters, especially when they send them away to a camp sponsored by the District. They have the right to decide when and if their young children are taught about gender ideologies.
School districts have no authority strip parents of these rights.
While parents insist they are not disputing the camp’s right to teach, promote, or support gender ideology, it does feel deceptive that the school district would not provide any and all pertinent information to parents when it comes to an overnight camp. Parents have trusted that school science trips are about nothing but scientific education. It changes the situation to know that their young children will be engaged in conversations about gender and sexuality, even on a basic level, with adults who are in a position of authority over them and who are also virtual strangers.
The Pali Institute has addressed the original story on their website, saying that accusations of housing girls with biological males are false, and chastising the media for not reaching out to the camp directly to clarify.
Dear Valued Pali Customers,
Recently, a story about the practices and procedures here at Pali Institute were called into question by someone who inaccurately accused us of placing male staff members in cabins with our female students/campers.
This was based on unfounded assumptions by what we believe to be a concerned parent and their misunderstanding of the information we did provide.
Most of the news and media outlets that ran this story or picked it up in the days following its initial release failed to reach out to Pali to clarify this information prior to airing or posting these articles. That is not only irresponsible but detrimental to our business and employees. It impacts the trust we have developed with our customers and calls in to question our integrity as a business. These are all things we do not take lightly and hold dearly.
Pali is an equal opportunity employer and is required to adhere to all applicable federal, state, and local laws while providing a safe and inclusive place for everyone.
The safety and well-being of our guests and employees are of the utmost importance, always has been and always will be.
Please know that we will not place children in cabins with staff members that are not the same sex assigned at birth.
Our guests, visitors, and customers here at Pali are essential to us, and continuing to have the pleasure of running a business like ours has been a lifelong pursuit and dream of our owner Andy Wexler. He is a family man who wants everyone to feel welcome here at Pali, be safe, and above all have fun!
Please know we value the trust you place in us year after year and look forward to having the opportunity to serve you now and in the future.
Thank you for your continued support and patience. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to let us know.
Haberbush reiterated that the parents and his firm do not hold Pali guilty or responsible. Their fight is with the school district that withheld information from parents even after they made several requests. This is an issue of parental rights, not the camp’s policies. He also explains that all of their civil rights services are provided pro bono, which means they depend on donations to keep their cases funded and rolling. LAUSD parents have set up a crowdfunding page for those who wish to support their efforts.
It’s a messy business, but the progressive activists in our schools aren’t going to stop targeting children just because parents are yelling a lot. It has to cost them something. Organizations like the Lex Rex Institute will be an important front in the battle to reclaim common sense for our educational institutions