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Proposed bill would require schools to use a student’s preferred name

DENVER, Colo. (KRDO) - A local democrat representative is sponsoring a bill that would require schools to use the preferred name of a student, following controversy from a school district within her region over a similar issue.

State Democrat Representative Stephanie Vigil proposed a new law that would require all state public and institute charter schools to call a student by their preferred name rather than their legal name if they so choose.

According to the proposed bill, if a school failed to call a student by their preferred name it would be considered discrimination.

About a year ago, School District 11 proposed a pronoun policy that would prevent teachers from asking students their preferred pronouns. However, the board responded with mixed reactions. At the time D11 Vice President Jason Jorgenson stated he believed it's not appropriate for staff to ask students what their gender, pronouns, or sexuality is regardless of age.

"If that student wants to identify with he, him pronouns, great that’s on them to do that," Jorgenson said during a board meeting last year. "But for us to go, ‘Today I want to know your names and your pronouns.’ We should not be doing that.”

Former board member Al Loma said he's "offended" when he hears trans people requesting their preferred pronouns.

"I’m kind of old-fashioned,” Loma said during the same board meeting. “I know a boy when I see one, and I know a girl when I see one.”

In response to the proposed policy, dozens of students protested outside the D11 Administration Building, including River Merrell.

"I go to school with so many people who are trans and who are non-binary, and the thought of them having to go through this and having to advocate for themselves instead of people having their basic manners and asking pronouns," Merrell told KRDO13 Investigates during the protests last year. "Maybe you would just go the entire year being misgendered, not being yourself."

One Colorado, an LGBTQ+ advocacy organization, supports this proposed bill.

“Making sure that we can create space for them to be seen and heard as their true self is very important,” said Nadine Bridges, the executive director of One Colorado. “It's a great opportunity to kind of create equity and inclusion in schools.”

Due to the recent controversy, KRDO13 Investigates reached out to D11 about their thoughts on the proposed law. Board President Parth Melpakam declined an interview but said there’s concern amongst the board that the law would violate a parent’s rights.

According to the district’s policy, “The Board values the parent/guardian (“parent”) as the constant and primary influence in a child’s life and recognizes that parents are responsible for determining the upbringing, education, care, and moral development of their child.”

One Colorado agrees parents should have the right to make decisions for their child but not unilaterally for other children in a school.

“Parents do have the right, for their specific child, to make whatever decisions they deem best for that young person,” Bridges said. “They do not have the right to make decisions for every student that attends a charter school or a public school.”

The bill would also create a task force to “examine existing school policies and provide recommendations to schools on how to best implement student non-legal name change policies.”

KRDO13 Investigates reached out to Vigil about the proposed bill, but we never heard back.

“We're talking about pronouns and names and making sure that a young person can be seen as their authentic selves,” Bridges said. “Why wouldn’t anybody want to create space for that?”

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Quinn Ritzdorf

Quinn is a reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.


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