Protests in D11 over proposed ban on asking pronouns

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D11 students protest against a board-suggested ban on staff asking students' pronouns, outside the district's administration building on Feb. 27. (Photo courtesy Marynn Krull)

Students, parents and teachers in Colorado Springs School District 11 protested yesterday (Feb. 27) against a proposed policy that could ban staff from asking students what their pronouns are.

About two dozen people — mostly students from Coronado High School — showed up to D11’s administration building on North El Paso Street to oppose the ban, says Marynn Krull, a 2022 Doherty High School graduate who now attends Colorado College. Krull helped spread the word about the protest using a D11-focused Instagram account she started in late January, @costudentsagainstcensorship, after a Coronado student reached out to her for support to organize action. 

We reported on Feb. 16 about the suggested ban: At a February board meeting, D11 Board of Education Vice President Jason Jorgensen asked that the district add pronouns to a list of topics that staff members are prohibited from talking about with students, part of a district-wide staff conduct policy that’s currently under review. 

Jorgensen said it was inappropriate to ask students of any age for their pronouns, and claimed the question could make cisgender kids “uncomfortable.” At the same meeting, Board Director Al Loma said he’s “offended, when I hear those terms.”

“And I can’t say nothing, but I’m offended,” Loma continued. “My offense doesn’t matter, apparently, because we don’t matter, Christians don’t matter.”

It’s worth noting that many Christian churches and denominations support transgender advocacy, asking pronouns, and other efforts for inclusivity. It’s also worth noting Loma and Jorgensen have a history of making social media posts offensive to the LGBTQ community — and Loma has faced community complaints for pushing religious rhetoric and publicizing his church from the D11 board dais.

Loma and fellow conservative board members Sandra Bankes and Lauren Nelson agreed with Jorgensen, sending the proposed policy to a district committee that will consider it. 

The D11 community members — and even some from Manitou Springs School District 14, Krull says — showed up to voice their opposition to the proposal, with rainbow pride flags and signs that said, “Respecting pronouns is suicide prevention,” “We won’t be censored to comfort your ignorance,” and “Fire Loma.”

“I 100 percent believe that’s a violation of a student’s dignity and rights,” Krull says of the proposal.

Krull, who is also the daughter of a D11 teacher, initially started the Instagram account to bring students’ attention to discussions in the district about removing library books, particularly those with LGBTQ themes, she says. That effort, spearheaded by Moms for Liberty – El Paso County, is connected with the pronoun ban proposal, she says.

“My goal from the beginning was to champion students’ rights and empower students” by using social media to bring awareness to board issues, says Krull, whose account now has more than 370 followers. “They need to know about everything that directly relates to them, and if you look at some of the books that were flagged as questionable by Moms for Liberty, there are patterns in those that are definitely related to the potential banning of discussing pronouns.

“It, to me, reveals an underlying motive.”

Neighbors For Education, the pro-public education and equity group in D11 and other Colorado Springs area school districts, also released a statement opposing the proposed pronoun ban around the time of the protest.

“We cannot allow these students — our children — to carry the weight of the biases publicly and repeatedly presented by these board members,” the statement says. “It isn’t fair and it isn’t safe.”

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