Lori Gimelshteyn, the leader of a right-wing organization targeting school diversity policies, admitted in a radio interview and on X (formerly Twitter) on Monday that she posed as a nine-year-old Cherry Creek student questioning her gender identity in a text to a crisis line.
Gimelshteyn, who directs the Colorado Parent Advocacy Network (CPAN), posted screenshots on social media of her conversation with a Colorado Crisis Services (CCS) specialist and claimed that a Cherry Creek school district elementary student had accessed a private mental health chat with an adult.
In the text conversation, Gimelshteyn says her name is Hailey Perry. She then says she’s sad and struggling with her desire to be a boy and doesn’t want her mom to find out. The specialist says the conversation is confidential and that they will provide resources for the child to help her explore her gender identity.
“We had multiple text communications posing as children under the age of 12, where within moments without even revealing any suicidal ideation or self-harm concerns, where children were just saying, ‘You know, ‘Oh, I’m sad,’ or, ‘I’m mad at my mom,’ that type of thing, that they were instantly asking, ‘Do you want to kill yourself,’” Gimelshteyn told conservative KOA radio host Mandy Connell on Nov. 2 [at 6 minutes here].
While Gimelshteyn finds this line of questioning inappropriate, especially for children under 12, CCS, which is a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provider, says it follows standards for suicide assessments.
“CCS crisis line specialists are directed to assess for suicidal ideation. Our statewide call center is fully credentialed by the American Association of Suicidology (AAS) and adheres to the standards for suicide assessments laid out by AAS,” a CCS representative told the Colorado Times Recorder.
Gimelshteyn told Connell in at least one of the staged conversations a specialist connected her to the Trevor Project, to which Connell replied, “Wow. The Trevor Project is a very, very proud trans organization.”
The Trevor Project is the leading suicide prevention and crisis intervention nonprofit organization for LGBTQ young people, according to the non-profit’s website.
Out of more than 10,000 calls and 3,200 texts to CCS in the last quarter, 1% of callers and 2% of texters self-identified as 12 or younger and 4% of callers and 14% of texters as 13-17 years old, according to CCS. Providing demographics is optional, so the data doesn’t represent everyone who called the line.
It’s unclear what, if any, consequences there are for misidentifying yourself to a crisis specialist. However, a representative from CCS said, “To ensure Colorado Crisis Line calls and texts are answered quickly by CCS crisis specialists, we strongly encourage people to only reach out when they are truly in need of immediate connection and support. If you are curious about the crisis line and what type of care it provides, we encourage you to reach out to [email protected].”
Libs of TikTok shares “great exposė”
CPAN posted its staged video to X, where the popular anti-LGBTQ Libs of TikTok shared the video calling it a great exposé. CPAN thanked the group for the share and told them to stay tuned for further evidence of harm coming in the next few weeks.
Just last month, a post that began with CPAN and was shared by Libs of TikTok set off a cyber attack against CCSD personnel that required the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office to investigate. While the threats were later deemed non-credible, the district and law enforcement devoted extensive time and resources to investigating the attack.
CPAN issued a statement after the onslaught of threatening emails, saying no one deserves to be threatened or harassed. Yet, CPAN continues to appreciate the support of local and national anti-LGBTQ groups.
CPAN is a 501c4 organization that is “guided by America’s founding principles.” Deborah Flora, who has announced plans to run for the Fourth Congressional District in 2024 sits on the board.
Grooming these children
“We need to know why they [Colorado school districts] encourage secret text conversations with purported specialists who promised to ensure secrecy and support, and why are they promoting posters for the Colorado crisis line that suggest families are the problem?” asked Gimelshteyn in a live discussion on X.
Gimelshteyn says CPAN has received reports from multiple parents and teachers in school districts across the state that these posters are in their schools, which she says is evidence of harm. She didn’t post copies of those complaints.
During the X discussion, investigator George Mumma said, “These people [crisis specialists] are posing as a trusted adult, which was the same thing that was going on during my sex crimes investigations. What they’re doing is leading this child down a road without parental involvement, which was the same thing we dealt with in the crime field. So they’re grooming these children.”
According to CCS, its specialists receive specialized training to provide culturally responsive and safe support for youth contacting the crisis line. The full training crisis line specialists take is three weeks long, followed by a shadow week. The training consists of crisis intervention with any crisis that would present in a caller or texter, de-escalation, stabilization, and how to connect callers and texters to ongoing support.
Crisis line confidentiality
Gimelshteyn expresses outrage that a child would be allowed to talk to an adult without their parent’s permission. Yet, state law in Colorado allows children 12 and older to seek psychotherapy without a parent or legal guardian’s consent. The law acknowledges involving a minor’s parent is important but that there are circumstances when “notifying the parent or legal guardian would be inappropriate or detrimental to the minor’s care and treatment.”
Crisis specialists are trained to give immediate support and then provide connections to further resources. They are not psychotherapists, so the law doesn’t apply to them.
Still, Gimelshteyn argues in the Connell interview on KOA, “What we know is that when an adult talks with a child under the age of 18, regardless of any law that’s been put in place by the Legislature, it is inappropriate to guide that child away from his or her parents, and it’s CPAN’s statement that any and all mental health concerns should be immediately communicated to a child’s parents.”
“Any and all attempts to conceal this information and to hide treatment is unethical,” she said.
However, an American Academy of Pediatrics review of adolescent state privacy laws states, “A rich evidence base demonstrates that adolescents are more likely to seek health care for potentially sensitive issues such as sexuality, mental health, and drug use if they can provide their own consent and be confident that their health information is private.”
Crisis hotline posters in schools
A 2022 Colorado law requires public school identification cards to include the phone number, website address, and text talk number for Colorado Crisis Services and the safe2tell program. If a school doesn’t issue identification cards, it has to display and send information related to Colorado crisis services to parents or guardians at the beginning of each school year.
A series of posters provided to schools contain language around the fact that families aren’t always a safe place for children and that those wishing to speak to someone confidentially can text TALK to 38255.
Yet, Gimelshteyn said CPAN believes the messages are subtle terminology that “drive children to think that their families were bad for maybe encouraging them to have good grades.”
“The marketing campaign is intended to appeal to young people who may already be feeling the feelings described on the posters but do not know where to turn,” said a CCS representative. “The intent is for young people to feel seen and heard when they see these posters and give them access to an immediate, potentially life-saving resource like the Colorado Crisis Line. Additionally, the creation of the campaign was also informed by young people, so the messages we share on these posters have been tested to resonate with youth.”