Rock Springs Parents Don’t Want To Settle Over School Trans Policy

The chances of a Rock Springs couple settling their lawsuit against a local school district over allegedly helping gender transition their teen behind their backs are low, the couple’s attorney said. 

Clair McFarland

February 15, 20243 min read

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The chances of a Rock Springs couple settling their lawsuit against a local school district are low, the couple’s attorney said. 

U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Kelly Rankin held a pre-trial scheduling conference Monday to set hearings and expectations in Sean and Ashley Willey’s civil lawsuit against Sweetwater County School District No. 1. 

The Willeys allege the district policy and school personnel socially gender-transitioned their teenage daughter behind their backs. 

The district maintains that its policy was a content-neutral requirement to honor students’ name preferences — not an attempt to socially transition anyone. 

Rankin scheduled a seven-day jury trial for next spring: March 24, 2025. 

“I’m going to be very frank here, there’s a fair amount of distrust on the Plaintiff’s part – Mrs. Willey – with the district,” said Ernie Trakas, the Willeys’ attorney, explaining to Rankin why he doubts the case could reach settlement. “It would take a good-faith effort on the district’s part to come to the table.” 

Eric Hevenor, the district’s attorney, said he was surprised at Trakas’ assessment. He said the district thought it could settle the case with the Willeys after a federal judge dismissed some of their claims. 

“We’d be open to settlement,” said Hevenor. “But if one side thinks the (settlement) prospects are poor, they’re poor for everybody.” 

Most Of Case Advancing 

U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl dismissed parts of the case in December, but he allowed the bulk of it to advance. 

He dismissed Ashley Willey’s claim that the district violated her free-speech rights as a teacher by requiring her to use transgender students’ preferred pronouns. Ashley Willey is a teacher in a separate school from the one her teen attended.

But Skavdahl allowed Ashley Willey’s religious-freedom claim as a teacher and her parental rights claims with regard to her daughter to advance.  

Hevenor noted during the hearing that the teen no longer attends the high school where the dispute started — or any school in the district. 

That means the judge won’t be issuing declarations that the school is still violating the Willeys’ parental rights, though the Willeys still may seek compensation for alleged, past violations. 

How It Started

The Willeys sued the district in April 2023. The complaint alleges that their teenager started identifying as a boy while at school, and school personnel treated her as a boy by using a new name and pronouns. 

They also claim the district hid this from them, and that the district’s policy required it to do so. 

Skavdahl issued a preliminary injunction in June 2023, blocking the school from enforcing the “privacy” part of its preferred names policy. The judge cited parents’ constitutional right to the care, custody and control of their children. 

After the preliminary injunction, the district changed its policy to align with the judge's order, according to court documents. 

Clair McFarland can be reached at

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter