Parents Rally Around School District’s Discrimination Policy

Neighborhood Gazette file photo.

The public comment period at the April 11 Jefferson County School Board meeting saw parents and community members rally in support of the board and district for its policies surrounding the LGBTQ+ community, in opposition to the accusations of speakers who seek to dismantle the district’s current policy, JB-R, the anti-discrimination Equal Education Opportunities for Transgender Students Policy, which grants protection to transgender students.

One mother and Jeffco educator told the board she wished her son didn’t need protection through policies like JB-R.

“The things in code JB-R should just be how things are,” said Nicole, who withheld her last name. “What I hear from the people who are here to protect kids by stripping them of their basic rights is this: They say my child’s identity isn’t real. They think they know him better than he knows himself…My child deserves to be called the right name. He also deserves basic safety like going to the bathroom he belongs in, confiding in teachers even if it might hurt my misplaced parental pride, and being able to ask teachers for the special accommodations he needs to participate in activities.”

Nicole’s comments were in contrast to Littleton resident Laura Otis, who accused the board of being complicit sexual predators.

“You are condoning, endorsing, and encouraging our children into potentially dangerous sexual situations,” Otis said. “For your actions or inactions, each one of you is the very definition of what is a groomer.”

Wheat Ridge resident Jaimie Blaki suggested to the board in her comments that there was an underlying agenda, although it wasn’t clear what that agenda was. 

“I hope that you understand that the agenda was started very high up, wherever it is,” said Blaki, cautioning the board members against promoting the unspecified agenda. “There’s a law, whether it’s universal or spiritual, that what goes around comes around, so I sure hope you’re ready for whatever comes out of all this.”

Despite the public comment, JB-R was not an item on the board’s agenda. Enacted in 2013, the policy has been targeted by anti-trans groups more recently, and the momentum coincides with the timing of HB-1039, the Preferred Names Bill, concerning non-legal name changes.

The JB-R policy requires “that all programs, activities, and employment practices are free from discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression.” According to the policy language, its purpose is to reduce “the stigmatization of and improving the education integration of transgender and gender nonconforming students, maintaining the privacy of all students, and fostering cultural competence and professional development for school staff.”

In December 2023, Christian law firm The Alliance Defending Freedom, on behalf of Jeffco parents Joe and Serena Wailes, sent a letter to the Jeffco Superintendent Tracy Dorland and the school board asking for clarification of the JB-R policy. The Wailes’ allege their religious beliefs and parental rights were violated when their child shared overnight accommodations during a summer 2023 trip with a transgender student.

Morgan Richards, founder of Wheat Ridge for Equity, encouraged the board to continue strengthening policies to defend against prejudices. 

“I’m here again this month to support you in keeping Jeffco school policy JB-R,” said Richards, whose two children graduated from Jeffco schools.

“We cannot normalize the kind of hate that emboldens some people to harm and vilify transgender students in our community schools, or in our community, especially when they show up armed with disinformation,” Richards said. “We will come back every time this kind of hate and bigotry show up here, and make it clear that many many more of us who live and work in our community support your actions and decisions to make sure Jeffco public schools are inclusive and safe for all.”

Nicole’s son Miles sat in the audience but did not address the board directly. Following the meeting, however, the student said he was “irritated at the irrational things people were saying.”

“I felt that a lot of what was being said was hard to understand because it didn’t make sense,” Miles said. “I trust my school, and my school board.”

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