Colorado school board denies considering LGBTQ segregation, transgender bathroom policy

Colorado Springs school board meeting
Autumn Byrd and Vanessa Wilcox embrace after having spoken about their respective experiences coming out as transgender during public comment at Academy District 20’s board meeting. Nick Sullivan, The Gazette

Colorado school board denies considering LGBTQ segregation, transgender bathroom policy

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Colorado Springs residents clashed over LGBTQ+ issues at Thursday’s Academy School District 20 board meeting as crowds overflowed into the hallway outside the conference room.

An email that came to light earlier this week via an open-records request showed a community member proposed to administrators that the district set up a separate campus for LGBTQ+ students and suggested transgender students could be sexually assaulted if they use a restroom that aligns with their gender identity.


Sixty-three community members signed up to address the board during public comment, coming alternately to the defense of the board for its service and criticizing it for its alleged failure to advocate the LGBTQ+ community.

“I think I can safely say that the board has never discussed and would never discuss and, in fact, we condemn any thought of separating students of schools based on anything except parental choice,” board President Thomas LaValley said. “In addition, there is no board policy on bathrooms. There has never been such a policy, nor has there been any discussion relating to any sort of a board policy regarding bathrooms.”

A request filed through the Colorado Open Records Act and obtained by a community member detailed a Nov. 14 email exchange between district spokeswoman Allison Cortez and Jim Smith, assistant superintendent of planning and engagement. In the exchange, Cortez summarized a meeting with two community members who expressed concerns over the district’s strategic plan, “specifically its focus on belonging, the status of Gay, Straight Alliance (GSA) Clubsand the promotion of these clubs.”

Smith and Cortez met with Advocates for D20 chairman Brian Moody and member Don Spano on Sept. 15. Advocates for D20 is a community organization that is unaffiliated with the district, according to Cortez. The group has twice petitioned the district in the past three months, first “for the reclassification of GSA clubs” and a second time “for the removal/change of the district strategic plan.”

Year one of the strategic plan, which Cortez and Smith explained was to be implemented over a five- to 10-year period, focuses on belonging for all students.

“I really, really hope that there are no claims tonight that segregating LGBTQ students and staff was just an innocent proposal because we all know that it wasn’t,” community member Rob Rogers said during public comment Thursday. “And the fact that it’s even being discussed at all, is precisely the problem.”

During the September meeting, Moody said he takes issue with a “culture of belonging,” according to the email exchange, because it can be used to promote individual agendas. By making sure one group feels like it belongs, schools might inadvertently disenfranchise other groups, he said.

“[Moody’s] daughter is at Pine Creek and her teacher asked for her preferred pronoun. He does not think that is a question an educator should be asking,” an email from Cortez to Smith summarizing the Sept. 15 meeting reads. “But the principal there used ‘belonging’ in the strategic plan as a way to defend the pronoun question.”


Spano suggested the district establish a separate campus for LGBTQ+ and transgender students that can cater to “that type of belonging” since there is contention surrounding the term “belonging.”


Cortez and Smith said belonging is about respecting each individual and learning to respect one another, according to the email. The district will train staff on how to implement the plan consistently.

Advocates for D20 later met with Superintendent Thomas Gregory to clarify how the district handles student requests to use a bathroom that aligns with their gender identity and how it responds when a student wishes to use a different name or pronoun.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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