Colorado’s road to representation gets challenged

When a bill gets passed in the state saying that kids should be educated about LGBTQ, one person disagrees.

Beth Suppes, a member of the Delta County School District 50J Board of Directors, released an opinion piece about LGBTQ culture within the state’s education standards in the Delta County Independent on February 8. 

While reading this article, it contained some factual errors. The first and most obvious of all is page 30 of the Colorado Academic Standards For Social Studies Education.

In her opinion piece, Suppes references, however, this page doesn’t exist and simply leads to the “page not found” website of the Colorado General Assembly. 

Suppes also mentions page 30 of the Colorado Department of Education grade level outcomes, but the page that is referenced never mentions the ability to identify and explain the relevance of notable civic leaders from different community groups. Mostly the page talks about the ability to identify civic leaders.

However, the newly adopted standards from 2022 do include this statement in Standard 4: Civics for Social Studies. The current standards that the district is using do not include this. 

House Bill 19-1192 concerns the inclusion of matters relating to American minorities in teachings of social contributions of Hispanic/Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans, American Indians, and the LGBTQ community. The bill isn’t replacing original historic teachings, it’s including history of these minority groups. 

Bethany Suppes said the changes are a problem because, “I believe this bill sets a terrible precedent when the state starts telling school districts what to teach by creating a law.” 

Suppes also said, “The need for a local school board is to bring forth a public eye to oversee all school business. HB19-1192 does not allow the local districts throughout our state to decide where the new standards fit into their social studies classrooms.” 

However, The National Library of Medicine also says, “Policies that specifically identify or enumerate protected groups such as LGBTQ students create supportive contexts for all youth.”

According to the Trevor Project, a highly regarded LGBTQ advocacy group, suicide is the second leading cause of death in today’s youths aged 10-24. Among these youths, those who identify under the queer umbrella are four times more likely to die of suicide than their peers. Vulnerability of minority groups also increases in a school setting. If we can teach kids about minorities like the LGBTQ, then it could help kids be more open to accepting each other. 

The National Library of Medicine finds, “Schools are often unsafe for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) students; they frequently experience negative or hostile school climates, including bullying and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity at school. Negative school climates and discriminatory experiences can threaten LGBTQ students’ well-being.” 

This comes directly after a recent controversy when school district policy changed after Tiffany Hendrix, Delta High Schools’ French teacher, was asked to remove a BLM flag from her classroom walls. 

Hendrix said, “Nobody told me, ‘take that down’ but once it was brought to my attention that it was misinterpreted as a political message, I took it down.” 

Hendrix went on to say, “I always say that it’s not my classroom, it’s the taxpayer’s classroom, and if someone is not comfortable, it’s my responsibility to try and fix that.” 

According to Daniel Burke, school board president, “You may have seen pride flags and flags for different countries around the school, and what we have decided is that is a message of inclusivity and not a political agenda, but that is where the lines start to get really blurry, and confusing.”  

Burke also said, “We care about quality education for all of our students and staff.”

Beth Suppes said she wants parents to teach their kids about the LGBTQ themselves, “I believe the introduction of these words to young minds belong in the home and at the discretion of the parent/guardian.” This could cause a cycle of LGBTQ discrimination.

However, this poses a huge problem. Some parents might not support the LGBTQ and may push their own beliefs onto their kids instead of letting kids decide what they believe. That’s not even the main point here. It is by law not the parents’ job to educate their kids, it is a school’s responsibility.

Suppes had also said, “I believe the sexual orientation of a notable person does not belong in elementary schools.” 

However, when asked what exactly is wrong with kids learning about the LGBTQ, Suppes chose not to comment. Kids will learn about sexual and romantic preferences no matter what, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we need to teach sex ed to 1st graders. Kids learn about romance through Disney movies, but again, no arguments against heterosexual people are being made, only those who are queer.

In Suppes’s article, it had said, “This new law requires all Colorado public schools to teach LGBTQ culture in 1st through 12th grade. Unlike the sex ed bill, there is no opt-out option and all local school board control has been taken away.” 

When we brought up the historical importance of this bill and how kids shouldn’t be able to opt-out of history, Suppes had said, “Social Studies is a graduation requirement as you know so opting out is not an option.” 

Suppes knows that you shouldn’t, and can’t, opt out of learning history, which is exactly what this bill is doing. This bill is enforcing the teachings of different cultural groups and different movements for equal rights. Implying that people should be able to opt out of learning about LGBTQ’s history implies that there is something wrong or unnatural about the material. This implication gave her opinion piece multiple homophobic undertones, intentional or not. 

By giving examples and simple explanations, a child will be able to gain a better understanding of the topic they don’t comprehend. 

Sometimes we need to listen to the actual kids that are going to be learning these things. The adults are there to help and guide, the kids are there to learn, but kids can’t learn much if half of the world is being hidden and altered. It creates a toxic environment for everyone involved.

In response to a series of questions on what she hopes to achieve, Suppes said, “I have consistently focused my concerns on what I believe to be an overreach from state lawmakers and I believe that your questions are insinuating that I have ulterior motives that just aren’t there.” 

In 2020 there was a change in the math standard. However, no outrage came from this, even from Suppes, though at the time of the change, she was on the school board. We found it odd that she addressed this, claiming that it wasn’t about LGBTQ people, even though it was mentioned numerous times in her article.

Around three years ago, a change was made to the curriculum of math and science however no article was made on how these changes would “Take control out of the hands of the district” or how it would “Overwork teachers and students.” 

People can have their own beliefs. if they think a certain type of education is forcing a certain agenda or culture on their kids, then put them in a different school.

If society can teach that other people’s preferences are normal, not only will people be more accepting of it, but people will be more comfortable with coming out and oppression will decrease. 

Your heart could be in the right place, but you could be indirectly oppressing some of your students. If you truly care for the safety and happiness of these students you seem to be advocating for, think of all of them, not just some.