April 13, 2022

JOINT RELEASE: COLORADO DEMOCRATIC LGBTQ+ CAUCUS URGES BOARD OF EDUCATION NOT TO CENSOR LGBTQ+ REFERENCES IN SCHOOLS

Legislators: “We see this play to change the school standards as a backdoor effort to put in a loophole for discrimination.”


DENVER, CO – The Colorado Democratic LGBTQ+ Caucus is urging the State Board of Education not to follow through on a proposal to update its Social Studies Standards and remove any LGBTQ+ references for students below 4th grade. In a letter, the lawmakers wrote that the proposed move conflicts with HB19-1192, a law the General Assembly passed in 2019 to ensure the inclusion of the history, culture, and social contributions of racial and ethnic minorities, religious minorities, and the LGBTQ+ individuals within those minority groups in public school standards. “When students learn about leaders who reflect their own identities, they feel supported and affirmed, and when students learn about leaders whose identities differ from their own, we hope it will spark empathy and understanding,” the lawmakers wrote. “In order to combat the increasingly overt acts of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia seen in our society today, we need to feel like we belong. We see this play to change the school standards as a backdoor effort to put in a loophole for discrimination.” The move to exclude LGBTQ+ references in Colorado curricula is particularly concerning, the lawmakers wrote, in light of recent legislation passed in Florida and across the country seeking to prohibit schools from using a curriculum or discussing topics of gender identity or sexual orientation and using “age-appropriateness” as a false justification to limit those discussions. “We absolutely agree that there are age appropriate indicators, strategies, modes of communication and learning within each grade-level,” the lawmakers continued. “What we have trouble with is understanding why LGBTQ+ history should be excluded. Children grow up with LGBTQ+ people in their families and they grow up understanding that diverse people can love each other. Then why can they not understand where their struggles for equality began.” “Please adhere to the legislature’s intent from HB19-1192 and do not place restrictions on the standards already in place.” The Colorado General Assembly LGBTQ+ includes Senate Majority Leader Dominick Moreno (D-Commerce City), Sen. Sonya Jaquez Lewis (D-Boulder County), Sen. Joann Ginal (D-Fort Collins), House Majority Leader Daneya Esgar (D-Pueblo), Rep. Brianna Titone (D-Arvada), Rep. Leslie Herod (D-Denver), Rep. David Ortiz (D-Littleton), and Rep. Alex Valdez (D-Denver). The full text of the LGBTQ+ Caucus’ letter is below: April 12, 2022 Office of the Colorado Board of Education 201 East Colfax Avenue Denver, CO 80203 Members of the Colorado State Board of Education: The Colorado Democrats LGBTQ+ Caucus is writing today to express our strong concerns about the recent updates to the Social Studies Standards intended for review at the upcoming April 12, 2022 Colorado State Board of Education meeting. There is a clear mandate of the State Board of Education and the Review Committee to create policies for the furtherance of all students. The April 12th agenda currently uploaded on Board Docs lists item 8, Student Learning, “Standards Revision Update: Overview of Public Feedback on Draft Social Studies Standards.” Specifically, we want to address the Review Committee’s response to public feedback:

Theme from Public Feedback: Numerous concerns were raised about the age appropriateness of referencing LGBTQ+ in lower grades. Committee General Response: The committee removed all references to LGBTQ below 4th grade.

The Legislature passed HB19-1192 with the intent of being inclusive and being sensitive to histories that have typically been excluded. HB19-1192 set out to ensure the inclusion of the history, culture, and social contributions of racial and ethnic minorities, religious minorities, and the LGBTQ+ individuals within these minority groups in public school standards. When students learn about leaders who reflect their own identities, they feel supported and affirmed, and when students learn about leaders whose identities differ from their own, we hope it will spark empathy and understanding. In order to combat the increasingly overt acts of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia seen in our society today, we need to feel like we belong. We see this play to change the school standards as a backdoor effort to put in a loophole for discrimination. Public comments seem to show a pattern in what we are seeing outside Colorado. Specifically, after Florida passed HB1557 there are now 13 other states with similar laws seeking to prohibit schools from using a curriculum or discussing topics of gender identity or sexual orientation and using “age-appropriateness” as a reason to limit these discussions. We absolutely agree that there are age appropriate indicators, strategies, modes of communication and learning within each grade-level. What we have trouble with is understanding why LGBTQ+ history should be excluded. Children grow up with LGBTQ+ people in their families and they grow up understanding that diverse people can love each other. Then why can they not understand where their struggles for equality began. Every human contains a multitude of identities–including a gender identity and a sexual orientation. Whether someone identifies as straight, cisgender, bisexual, non-binary, or transgender, these are all equally valid sexual orientations and gender identities. Logically, if the presupposition is that teaching about the LGBTQ+ community inherently incorporates sexual orientation and gender identity – which it does not and should not need to – and this Board and Review Committee determines that LGBTQ+ social studies curriculum is developmentally-inappropriate until 4th grade, then any social studies curriculum relating to any and all gender identities and sexual orientations should be deemed developmentally-inappropriate until that 4th grade-level. Put simply, if children are deemed too young to learn about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer people and relationships, they are too young to learn about heterosexual or cisgender people and relationships. With this in mind, we are asking this board to restore all references to the LGBTQ+ community in Colorado social studies curriculum below 4th grade, contrary to the recommendation of the Social Studies Standards Review Committee. Censoring topics which could organically arise from a student is not the answer. Ignoring a group of people does not make them cease to exist. Most importantly, we cannot make assumptions about who students are or what their family structure looks like. We cannot ignore the realities that Coloradans are diverse and include LGBTQ+ people. It’s important to not limit the conversations which could stifle inspiration for a kid who knows who they are and gets a glimpse of themselves in a role they may have never imagined. All students deserve that kind of opportunity. Please adhere to the legislature’s intent from HB19-1192 and do not place restrictions on the standards already in place. Sincerely, Members of the Colorado Democratic LGBTQ+ Caucus