Digital Originals

published : 2023-11-10

Colorado Mom Poses as 9-Year-Old to Text School-Sanctioned Crisis Line, 'Sickened' by Responses

Information about the crisis line is required to be in schools under Colorado state law

A photo of Lori Gimelshteyn, the executive director of the Colorado Parent Advocacy Network, taken with a Nikon D850.

A Colorado mother and parental rights advocate was horrified by the responses she received when she posed as a 9-year-old to text a state crisis line promoted in schools.

Lori Gimelshteyn, the executive director of the Colorado Parent Advocacy Network, decided to investigate the crisis line after concerns were raised by parents in the Cherry Creek School District.

Through text messages, she pretended to be a 9-year-old dealing with gender confusion.

The replies she received left her feeling sickened and worried for the safety of the children in her community.

One crisis specialist advised the '9-year-old' to explore her gender identity on her own terms but also asked if it brought up thoughts of suicide.

To make matters worse, the specialist promised that the messages would not be seen by the child's mother.

Instead, a link to the Trevor Project was shared for further resources.

When Gimelshteyn questioned the specialist about confiding in a teacher, she was told to ensure the teacher wouldn't inform her mother.

Gimelshteyn's distress prompted her to call for action to protect the well-being of students.

An image of parents and children in the Cherry Creek School District, discussing their concerns about the crisis line, captured with a Canon EOS R.

She believes that the crisis system, touted as a resource in schools, lacks proper training and guidelines and may be encouraging secrecy between children and parents.

Parents in the Cherry Creek School District have also expressed concerns about the language used in posters promoting the crisis line.

The posters have messages such as 'My family is great at pointing out my faults,' which some view as fostering a negative impression of families and parents.

State law requires the crisis line number and website to be printed on the back of every public school student's identification card.

Despite the controversy, a spokesperson for Cherry Creek Schools emphasized that the posters are in compliance with state law.

The crisis line, called Colorado Crisis Services (CCS), was created in response to the 2012 Aurora theater massacre, with the aim of providing support to individuals going through various crises.

In 2019, the crisis line served over 54,000 individuals through text, online chat, and call services.

While the CCS has not confirmed the authenticity of the text messages in question, a state official stands by the crisis line staff and the services they provide.

Marc Condojani, from Colorado's Behavioral Health Administration, stressed the importance of ensuring young people know that help is available when they are struggling.

A photograph of a group of crisis line specialists receiving training on providing support to youth, captured using a Sony A7 III.

He acknowledged the concerns raised by parents and encouraged them to be actively involved in their children's lives, asking questions and providing support.

Retired police chief George Mumma, who helped the Colorado Parent Advocacy Network, expressed his worry about schools promoting secrecy between students and parents.

He believes that parents should be involved in their children's lives and not have information withheld from them.

The Colorado Crisis Services spokesperson stated that crisis line specialists receive training in providing culturally responsive and safe support for youth.

Demographic data from the crisis line shows that individuals aged 12 and younger accounted for only 2% of those who reached out for help.

CPAN, as a non-partisan group, insists that the crisis line should be thoroughly investigated and potentially shut down until the concerns are addressed.

They argue that transparency and proper training are crucial to ensuring the well-being of students and the trust of parents.

Ultimately, the goal is for everyone in Colorado to know that help is available when needed.