During a Tuesday Board of Education meeting, members discussed recent feedback regarding a committee suggestion to revise social studies standards by excluding LGBTQ references in the curriculum before students reach the 4th grade in Colorado classrooms.
According to the committee, the state has received 17,344 items of feedback regarding the issue.
While some board members said the suggestion is a threat to equity, others supported the suggestion and said teachers should not have to teach gender identity.
“The problem is not inclusion or exclusion. But whether the discussion of sex in its various forms is appropriate for Kindergarteners. I think most parents would conclude that a public discussion in front of Kindergarteners of sex is not appropriate,” Board member Steve Durham said. “Leaving these kinds of discussions of sex out of our classrooms does not inflame the divisions, it makes the discussion of those issues more relevant and more appropriate at a later age.”
Durham also said conversations about gender identity and sex should be led by parents, not teachers.
But other board members said including references to the LGBTQ community in the curriculum has nothing to do with sexual acts.
“Even when we talk about mom and dad, we don't go into sexual education. We just say there's a mom and a dad. If you say this family has two dads, you're just saying there are two dads. It's a gender identification, it is not sexual education,” Board member Karla Esser said. “I think it's very important for every kid to see themselves in the curriculum. It has nothing to do with sexual education.”
Northfield High School student Jude Ruscha identifies as gay and uses they/them pronouns. Ruscha said if the state board decides to exclude LGBTQ references from the curriculum for lower grades, it will further isolate students like them.
“I think that not only is the suggestion unnecessary, but it's also actually harmful. When kids are exposed to differences at a young age, it helps them understand and develop more empathy,” Ruscha said. “The queer community does more than just have sex. We’ve made history, we have accomplishments. You don't have to teach kids about sex to teach about queer people. It's not just a sexual orientation.”
But other parents wrote to the school board and said LGBTQ references will likely lead to discussions about sex.
In a letter to the school board, a mother of three Douglas County School District students said, “I understand that students come from diverse home life. But again, these topics belong between parents and their children at home.”
Nadine Bridges, the executive director of One Colorado, an LGBTQ advocacy organization, said inclusivity means including everyone in the curriculum.
“The thing about our country is that we're not a monolith. We are representative of every identity out there, whether that's around disability, LGBTQ issues, women. And just like any discussion, we want to make sure that we are holistically representing everyone who has contributed to the United States,” Bridges said.
The state school board will meet again to set aside time for public comment.
This story was originally published by Micah Smith of KMGHin Denver, Colorado.