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Colorado Board of Education debates whether LGBTQ discussions belong in lower-grade classrooms

In response to public feedback, all references to "LGBTQ" were removed from a draft of revision recommendations to social studies standards for grades K-3.

COLORADO, USA — The Colorado Board of Education is debating whether discussions of LGBTQ people and issues should take place during social studies lessons for lower grade levels.

On Tuesday, a Colorado Department of Education committee shared public feedback with the board on its recommended changes to social studies standards.

"Numerous concerns were raised about the age appropriateness of referencing LGBTQ in lower grades," according to a slideshow presented to the board.

In response to the feedback, the committee recommended removing all references to "LGBTQ" in social studies standards for grades K-3.

Initially, the references were included because of House Bill 19-1192, which calls for education standards to include, "the contributions and influence of American Indians, Latinos, African Americans, and Asian Americans; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals within these minority groups."

“If this is taken out of the standards, that guidance is gone, and it leaves teachers without support if they want to try to incorporate these lessons," said Liz Meyer, a parent, college professor and former high school teacher.

Meyer said she started talking with her son when he was 2 years old about diverse family structures and gender identities. She said her son was bullied on the playground as a second grader because his classmates couldn't believe he could have two moms.

"When you have kids that are being taught that LGBTQ people don’t exist, are inappropriate to be talked about at elementary school, then you have kids growing up in LGBTQ-headed families, kids who grow up to identify as LGBTQ, learning their lives are not appropriate, and that causes harm that lasts," Meyer said.

Meyer said she was worried the state board of education would approve the revisions omitting the discussion of LGBTQ people and issues in some elementary school classrooms.

“The problem with the LGBTQ issues are not inclusion or exclusion, but whether the discussion of sex in its various forms is appropriate for kindergartners," said Steve Durham, a Republican state board of education member representing Colorado's 5th Congressional District.

Durham said he believes most parents wouldn't want such discussions happening in kindergarten classrooms.

“I don’t know how you get around the discussion of the sexuality separated from the issue of the family," Durham said.

Meyer argued social studies standards are not about sex or human sexuality.

"They are talking about people who have contributed to our communities, the history of various cultures and groups that have been a part of the fabric of the state of Colorado and our country and the world," she said.

Last November, the Colorado Department of Education committee presented its first draft of revision recommendations and made them available to the public for feedback.

From mid-November until February, the committee collected more than 17,000 pieces of feedback submitted in emails and letters. According to the slides shared Tuesday, 11,609 responses disagreed with specific revision recommendations. Half of those statements of disagreement came from six people, and one person submitted more than 1,000 comments.

The state board of education will hear public comment during its regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m.

The board expects to vote on the social studies standards in November or December.

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