Story at a glance
- Department of Education officials in Colorado are mulling over whether lessons about LGBTQ+ issues or individuals belong in classrooms below the fourth grade level.
- A state education committee this week said it had received thousands of comments from people who are concerned about the inclusion of LGBTQ+ references in the curriculum, though many of those comments came from just a small handful of people.
- According to The Trevor Project, LGBTQ+ youth who learned about LGBTQ+ issues or people in school had 23 percent lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt in the past year.
Education officials in Colorado this week discussed potentially cutting references to LGBTQ+ issues and people from state education standards based on input from parents, who say teachers should not be strong-armed into educating students about things like gender identity.
Members of a Colorado Department of Education committee during a meeting Tuesday said members of the public had expressed concerns over whether references to LGBTQ+ events or individuals belong in elementary school classrooms, according to a slide deck from the meeting.
In turn, the committee suggested that those references be removed from the curriculum prior to the fourth grade.
“The problem is not inclusion or exclusion, but whether the discussion of sex in its various forms is appropriate for Kindergarteners,” board member Steve Durham said Tuesday, ABC-affiliate KMGH-TV reported.
“I think most parents would conclude that a public discussion in front of Kindergarteners of sex is not appropriate,” Durham said, adding that conversations about sexual orientation and gender identity should be led by parents, not teachers.
Other board members on Tuesday argued that lessons taught in schools about LGBTQ+ people or issues don’t have anything to do with sex.
“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,” board member Karla Esser said Tuesday, according to KMGH-TV. “If you say this family has two dads, you’re just saying there’s two dads. It’s a gender identification, it is not sexual education.”
Essler added that it’s important for “every kid” to see themselves represented in the curriculum.
According to an August report from the LGBTQ+ youth suicide prevention and crisis intervention group The Trevor Project, LGBTQ+ young people who learned about LGBTQ+ issues or people in school had 23 percent lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt in the past year.
Among middle and high school LGBTQ+ students, 19 percent who reported never learning about LGBTQ+ people or issues said they had attempted suicide in the past 12 months, compared to 16 percent students who had learned about those topics, according to The Trevor Project.
“I think that not only is the suggestion unnecessary, it’s actually harmful,” Northfield High School student Jude Ruscha, who identifies as gay, said Tuesday. “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.”
Rucha, who uses a gender-neutral pronoun, said they worry excluding notable LGBTQ+ individuals and events from elementary school classrooms will further isolate young LGBTQ+ people.
As similar efforts to limit talk of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools sweep across the nation, LGBTQ+ advocates largely agree that such measures are likely to disproportionately impact LGBTQ+ students, alienating them from their peers.
The committee on Tuesday reported receiving more than 17,000 pieces of feedback from emails and letters between November and February. More than 11,000 of those responses agreed with the curriculum revisions proposed by the committee, though roughly half of them came from the same eight people.
More than 4,000 responses indicated disagreement with the recommended revisions, although half of those statements came from just six people, and one person submitted more than 1,000 comments.
The board will meet again on Wednesday and Thursday. A vote on the revised standards will likely take place in November or December.