SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. — Backlash over a more inclusive curriculum led to an ugly school board meeting and threats against the Summit County School District this month, but the superintendent said he won't back down in his support of the LGBTQ+ social studies standards.
Public comment at January's school board meeting devolved at times into finger-pointing and insults over a resolution the Summit School District Board of Education passed last fall to encourage the state to include representation of LGBTQ+ and BIPOC people in its new social studies curriculum standards, which it did in November.
In particular, the inclusion of the history and contributions of LGBTQ+ people in school curriculums for children in kindergarten through third grade led to uproar at the Jan 12. board meeting.
"We all know this is a door opening to allow extremely progressive views to be pushed on our kids," one parent opposed to the curriculum change said during public comment.
"You should be fired," another parent with a similar perspective told the board. "I think all of you guys should be ashamed of yourself."
"The anger and vitriol that was demonstrated in the room and then for the crowd to cheer on some of that anger, that we did not expect," superintendent Tony Byrd said Friday.
Last week, a 26-year-old was charged with felony menacing because, officers said, he posted threats against teachers and staff on social media over the new curriculum.
Summit has no option but to implement that curriculum now that the state school board has adopted the new standards.
"My message to the students was is and always will be: we are here to ensure you're included in our schools," Byrd said.
He supports the new curriculum, which he said will be age appropriate.
"We are not teaching sexual education in kindergarten through third grade, and that’s incredibly important for people to understand," he said.
Byrd said the inclusionary efforts are not just the right thing to do, but will also help diverse groups of students succeed in the classroom.
"I think it’s super clear that if you feel included in schools – not only is that just a good thing in general — students do much better when they feel welcoming and belonging," he said.
He said the uproar at the school board meeting led some students to feel "quite scared," but Byrd said he's not backing down in his support for LGBTQ+ inclusion.
"We will not ever waver on the value of diversity, equity and inclusiveness. That is rock solid," he said.
Byrd invited community members to engage when the district picks the specific textbooks and materials it will use to adhere to the new curriculum. He asked parents to model decent, civil behavior during those discussions.
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