In a transphobic fundraising email to supporters, Heidi Ganahl, the Republican frontrunner in this year’s race for Colorado governor, falsely claims that an Adams County school district instituted policies, allowing high school students to stipulate their gender at school, “without being voted on or put on the agenda for public notice and comment.”
Ganahl contends the Adams 12 Five Star District guidelines were made “unilaterally” by the Adams 12 superintendent at the direction of the elected members of the school board and that parents are “purposely being left out of decision-making” and that it’s a problem “happening right here in our own backyard.”
In fact, according to an Adams 12 spokesperson, the “guidelines were developed over several years with input from our preschool, elementary, middle, and high school communities, including students, staff, and parents, as well as community members and our Board of Education. These guidelines reflect district practices that have been utilized for several years, in compliance with applicable law.”
Commenting on Ganahl’s characterization of the process, the spokesman said via email, “State and federal law, as well as district policy, require that all district programs, activities, and employment practices are free from discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, transgender identity, gender identity, and gender expression.
“To this end, the district has developed a set of guidelines for supporting students and staff who are transgender or gender nonconforming,” continued the district’s response. “Please click here to view these guidelines and related information on our website.”
Policies and protocols in public schools are generally instituted by duly elected school boards, implemented by the superintendent and administration under a board’s authority and direction, with input from stakeholders via elected representatives, advisory committees, advocacy groups, and academic and professional associations, informed by best practices, prior experience, peer-reviewed research and consideration of students’ best interests.
Furthermore, districts commonly evaluate and update their policies over time.
Under the Adams 12 guidelines, high school students may stipulate their gender, name, and sexual identity at school, and district administrators and counselors are encouraged to facilitate honest and constructive communication between students and their parents in relation to those matters.
Ganahl’s plea for cash not only provided misinformation about how the guidelines were adopted but also promoted transphobic perspectives attacking the public school policies that support students’ autonomy and agency.
Ganahl includes in her Jan. 11 email a cued video segment from a public comment session from an Adams 12 Five Star District school board meeting, held on Dec. 15, 2021.
While a few separate community members address the same policy in the video of the public comments, Ganahl highlights the testimony of one particular participant who urges the board to rescind the district’s non-discrimination policy in order to “to protect our kids and preserve parental rights,” contending that the policy is in conflict with Colorado state statute regarding parental responsibilities and legal liabilities in relation to their minor children.
“The guidelines for supporting students who are transgender creates an extraordinary risk to the majority of students and conflicts with state law regarding the rights and responsibilities of parents,” falsely states the commenter spotlighted in Ganahl’s email. “We all agree that a safe environment is absolutely essential for students to achieve their full potential. However, similar policies in other districts have compromised student safety and created environments where students have been victimized.”
That testimony cites two anecdotal cases — the same two often cited in similar debates nationally — of bathroom sexual assault involving transgender students or students with non-conforming gender identities as perpetrators, specifically a case — reportedly misrepresented and distorted by partisan activists — from Loudon, Virginia, and another disputed case from three years ago out of Decatur, Georgia.
The commenter featured in the video acknowledges that these incidents did not occur in Colorado, but contends — without substantiation or explication — that those school policies were similar to that of Adams 12 school district.
Sexual assault perpetrated by gender-conforming and cisgender people accounts for a huge majority of sexual assault cases, while transgender individuals are far and away more likely to be victims of sexual assault.
Ganahl concludes her fundraising email with this: “I am a mom on a mission! Please join our movement and help me reach more Coloradans and more parents across our state. I’m asking for your donation or your time volunteering on our campaign, whichever you can spare.”
In her fundraising email, Ganahl is apparently trying to capitalize on a recent trend popular among activists across the nation, where organizers fill board meeting rooms with agitated commenters providing emotional testimony around controversial topics, some germane to on-the-ground local reality and experience, but many times exaggerated and out of context.
As exemplified with Ganahl’s campaign email, video or press coverage from these public comment sessions are often promoted in order to influence decision-makers, build partisan coalitions, and raise money for campaigns.
Currently, hot button issues such as policies of equity and diversity, curriculum and instruction relating to race and racism, allowing or restricting access to educational materials dealing with mature or controversial themes, and public health protocols in schools have drawn crowds to Colorado school board meetings and legislative committee rooms to testify.
Nationally, those same issues drive the same emotional debates. Similar to Ganahl’s fundraising email, “bathroom bills” and anti-LGBTQ policies are often championed by conservatives in local jurisdictions.
The Ganahl campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.