Colorado students, Democrats want LGBTQ references added back to social studies standards revisions

Students, parents, and three members of the Colorado State Board of Education have asked the committee tasked with revising the state’s social studies standards to add back language in its framework for children below the fourth grade so that it includes the historical contributions of people in the LGBTQ community.

The review committee recently reversed its plans to include the experiences and perspectives of gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people in its revisions of Colorado’s history and civics standards for certain grades after receiving public feedback questioning the “age appropriateness” of the changes, according to a presentation given to the board on Tuesday.

The decision drew pushback from the public and some directors during Board of Education meetings held on Tuesday and Wednesday. At least two board members – Lisa Escárcega and Rebecca McClellan –  have said they will not vote to approve the changes to the social studies standards if they exclude the experiences of people from the LGBTQ community.

“If our state and education systems are working toward equity it has to include all people,” Escárcega said on Tuesday. “We have to be bold in supporting our LGBTQ students as we do all our students.”

Colorado joins a nationwide debate about what should be taught in classrooms as it revises its social studies standards. Notably in Florida, lawmakers passed a law banning the instruction of LGBTQ issues to children in kindergarten through third grade, according to The Washington Post.

The Board of Education will vote on proposed changes to the social studies standards later this year, potentially as late as December.

The changes proposed by the review committee to social studies standards do not specifically say how lessons should be taught in the classroom. The passage of House Bill 19-1192 three years ago, requires public schools to include the experiences and perspectives of Black, Latino, Native American and LGBTQ individuals in history and civic lessons.

Board member Steve Durham said the discussion of what is age-appropriate for young students to learn should be happening at local school boards.

“The problem with the LGBTQ issues are not inclusion or exclusion but whether the discussion of sex and its various forms is appropriate for kindergarteners,” he said.

But on Wednesday, students and parents spoke in favor of including the experiences of people in the LGBTQ community in social studies standards for younger grades.

A fourth-grader named Rileigh told the Board of Education that they want to “learn truthful history that doesn’t erase people for who they are or who they love.”

“I have loved ones that are part of LGBTQ+,” Rileigh said. “I look up to them because they are not afraid to stand up to bullies that are making fun of who they are and they are not afraid to be who they are.”

Another student, a high school senior named Julia, said children need support from their community to feel welcomed and connected. She said the first time she heard about LGBTQ issues in class as a sophomore made her feel “normalized in what I was feeling.”

“I was never taught LGBTQ topics in elementary school or middle school,” she said. “I felt alone, unsupported and weak. I didn’t know what I was going through.”

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