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POLITICS: Failing to address students by preferred name would be discrimination under new Colorado bill pushed by youth

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School staff would be required to address Colorado students by their preferred name under a new bill a state youth council advanced. Refusal to do so would constitute discrimination.

“Giving students a place like the school where they can live as themselves and be validated as themselves, I think is really important,” teenager Meghan Taylor told Colorado Newsline.

People file into Civic Center Park for Denver’s PrideFest, June 16, 2018. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

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Students from the Colorado Youth Advisory Council (COYAC) voted in late October to send three bills to the state Legislative Council. Two of the three bills involve gender identity, and the third focuses on increasing access to mental health support.

The non-legal name change bill would require schools to use a student’s preferred name in class, extracurricular activities, yearbooks, student identification cards and more without requiring a legal name or gender change.

COYAC argued that continuing to use students’ legal names in class and school publications causes “humiliation” and “deadnames” Colorado youth.

“With all of the [anti-trans] legislation and rhetoric being spread across the nation, it can be really hurtful, I know, to be an LGBTQ person and feel like you’re not a person and you’re not valid,” Taylor told Colorado Newsline.

The bill would create a task force to provide policy implementation recommendations, including procedures related to parental notification. In its policy proposal, COYAC suggested not requiring parental approval as long as the non-legal name change does not appear on external documents and correspondence that “can be viewed by the parent or guardian.”

Colorado pride flag with silhouette of man raising his fist

People protest at the Colorado State Capitol after the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in 2012. The couple’s supporters gathered at the Colorado State Capitol on June 4, 2018. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

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Students presented their draft bills to legislators in a hearing last month. Republican lawmakers and a parent pushed back on the name change bill.

“Please don’t perpetuate this bullying of teachers and parents to do what they know is wrong for some children,” said Erin Lee, a mom who sued her school district after she says it facilitated discussions on transgenderism and encouraged kids not to tell their parents. “This kind of forced speech and forced transition of children will harm many.”

The youth council also approved a bill that would create state grants to train health care providers in gender-affirming care and create a task force to study the status of youth gender-affirming care in Colorado.

The third bill COYAC advanced seeks to increase access to mental health care by offering student debt relief to school psychologists who work in the state for at least three years.

Colorado State Capitol

Colorado teens sent three bills concerning gender identity and mental health to the state legislature for consideration in the 2024 legislative session. (Hyoung Chang/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

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The Legislative Council will consider the three bills when it meets next week. If the council approves the bills, they will be introduced in the 2024 legislative session, which starts in January.

Colorado’s Democratic-majority legislature has passed several gender bills in the last few years. The state has banned conversion therapy on minors, enshrined access to gender-affirming care and recently required that all new public buildings include “non-gendered” restrooms.



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