D11 considers a ban on teachers asking students’ pronouns

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D11 Board Vice President Jason Jorgensen speaks at the Feb. 8 regular Board of Education meeting. (Screenshot via D11's recording of the meeting on Vimeo)

In case you missed it at the Colorado Springs School District 11 Board of Education’s regular meeting last week (Feb. 8) — conservative board members want a new policy for staff conduct to ban them from asking for students’ pronouns.

Board Vice President Jason Jorgensen suggested the edit to district policy, arguing that it’s inappropriate for school staff to ask students, of any age, what pronouns they use, and that the question could make cisgender students uncomfortable.

“If a student wants to give that, then they can,” Jorgensen said at the meeting. “That’s none of our business to be promoting that, or, in our younger kids, causing confusion with going ‘What’s my pronoun,’ whatever. Leave it out of the classroom.”

  • Jorgensen’s suggested edit is to a newly-created policy, Staff Conduct and Responsibilities, which is being developed by the D11 board’s standing policy committee. The pronoun ban will specifically be considered as an addition to regulations related to that policy, found here.
  • The policy committee is made up of administrators, principals, teachers, a parent and a community member, according to a description of the committee in D11 records. 
  • The committee researches, discusses and writes district policies, which are then sent to the superintendent to review and then to the board, the records state.
  • Jorgensen previously faced backlash for posting a transphobic meme to his Facebook profile, which led to protests by students and members of the LGBTQ community.
Discussion and Response
  • After Jorgensen proposed the pronoun ban, Board Directors Al Loma, Sandra Bankes and Lauren Nelson agreed that the edit should be considered by the policy committee. 
  • The four conservative board directors also agreed that staff members should be prohibited from disclosing their political affiliations and beliefs — “matters” — with students, another suggested addition by Jorgensen. 
  • Loma echoed Jorgensen on the pronoun claim: He claims it’s inappropriate and offensive to ask students for their pronouns. Loma also claimed that he doesn’t push his Christian faith onto students (although he’s been called out multiple times for sending Bible verses via his board email address and signing off with a church signature.) “​​They never consider the offense that — I’m offended, when I hear those terms,” Loma said at the meeting. “And I can’t say nothing, but I’m offended … My offense doesn’t matter, apparently, because we don’t matter, Christians don’t matter.”
  • Director Julie Ott pushed back, saying that teachers asking students’ pronouns is a way of “honoring their students and their students’ identities.” She noted that not every LGBTQ student is comfortable sharing their pronouns without being asked. “Certainly on our upper grade levels, as children are learning about who they really are, I don’t see shutting that down straight up and in policy,” Ott said.
  • Inside Out Youth Services, a Springs-based support organization for LGBTQ youths, also spoke out against the policy change, saying, “Self-disclosing pronouns all the time can be exhausting and scary.” Liss Smith, communications manager for Inside Out, also says staff asking for students’ pronouns signifies they are a safe and supportive person with whom they can share their identity.
  • The full policy discussion can be viewed here — it begins at about 3 hours, 8 minutes in this video recording of the meeting.
What’s Next
  • Since a majority of the board — those four conservative members — agreed that the pronoun and political bans be added to the policy regulations, Board President Dr. Parth Melpakam directed the policy committee to consider them.
  • The policy committee will talk about the additions, keeping in mind that the board requested them, and then return the policy to the board again for its approval, Melpakam said.

Editor’s note: We’ve clarified Inside Out Youth Services’ response to more clearly state why they believe staff asking for students’ pronouns should be allowed and encouraged.

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