Colorado Rep. Don Wilson (R-Monument), attorney Brad Miller, and Monument Academy Board of Education President Ryan Graham discussed conservative education policy goals during yesterday’s bi-monthly Capitol Club luncheon.
The Capitol Club Luncheon is open to Colorado GOP members who donate $500 annually to the party, or individuals who purchased a $60 ticket. Attendees included Congressional candidate Deborah Flora and El Paso County school board members Aaron Salt of Academy School District 20, and John Graham of District 49.
Miller and Graham discussed Monument Academy’s newly introduced policy addressing transgender students, based on the school’s June resolution which stated “the board shall mandate that any student under the age of 18 who is affirmed by the parental or custodial or legal guardians must further transition with a change of name and change of gender Infinite Campus and any other associated school records and that the transitioned student must conform to the dress code of the gender that they now identify or express as with no vacillation.” Monument Academy’s board will hear a second reading of the policy Dec. 14.
“Part of the reason that we really wanted to have these speakers today is because what they’re doing is so groundbreaking and so important,” said Darcy Schoening, the former co-chair of El Paso County’s Moms for Liberty chapter who now runs the state GOP’s school board program and who served as the master of ceremonies for Thursday’s luncheon. “Anybody that’s in this room that is on a school board has access to their school board, or you just live in an area with a conservative school board — we need this policy to be passed across the state. We can’t control the legislature at present. It’s actually a complete disaster up there, but that doesn’t mean that our conservative boards, whether we’re talking about school boards, whether we’re talking about city councils, whether we’re talking about county commissioners, we have conservative pockets all across the state of Colorado. And those boards need to be passing policies to protect our children and protect our families from the state legislature and from Polis.”
Monument Academy’s policy is a response to Colorado nondiscrimination laws Senate Bill 08-200 and House Bill 21-1108, which list gender expression and gender identity as a protected class, affording transgender people the right to, among other things, use bathrooms and changing facilities that correspond with their chosen gender as opposed to their sex at birth. The rights of trans students to use public restrooms that correspond with their gender identity was affirmed in the 2013 ruling in favor of Coy Mathis, a trans elementary student in the Fountain-Fort Carson School District who was denied bathroom access.
“I think we need to frame the issues correctly,” said Miller, who serves as legal counsel for a number of conservative school districts and charter schools in Colorado. “I don’t think I win hearts and minds by hammering the silliness and the, frankly, the profound danger of gender dysphoria. I don’t think I win people who aren’t of a worldview common to me that- I don’t win in that conversation, but I think a lot of folks can at least understand that we should support the role of parents in the education of their children. I think that ought to be our rallying cry and a rallying point. Yeah, it’s objectively absurd to consider that there’s been some sort of massive biological shift and somehow we have more than a tiny fraction of people that are transgender. Scientifically, practically it’s make-believe, but our Colorado legislature has adopted laws that apply to schools that specifically protect gender expression and gender identity as defined in the statutes.”
Graham noted that the proclamation, resolution, and now policy to address transgender students was brought to address a tiny fraction of people. “We are a parent-led charter school and we have been entrusted to serve roughly 1,100 students in K-12, over two different campuses,” he said. “We are a protector of parental rights. We are the protector of children and we are a protector of our children’s right to privacy. My first year on that board, we had an incident with a student wanting to use a bathroom that did not align with their biological sex. My admin team brought this to me and I said, absolutely not. We are not going to allow this.”
One student out of 1,100 is .09% of Monument Academy’s student body.
Graham said that after receiving pushback from the school’s administration over the proclamation, the board replaced them. “I started down the path and I drafted a proclamation,” he said. “Those of you that are familiar with the proclamation understand that a proclamation proclaims a position. It says, ‘This is where we stand, this is who we are,’ but it doesn’t really have any teeth. After drafting that proclamation, I started receiving a lot of pushback from my admin team. Well, we went out and we have hired a new admin team at this point.”
The replacement of school or district employees that disagree with a board’s political position is one of the suggestions given by conservative groups such as the Leadership Institute and Truth and Liberty. According to reporting by the Colorado Springs Gazette, following last month’s school board elections which saw the election of a conservative majority, District 11 fired four senior staff members.
As a result of Monument Academy’s proclamation and resolution, the American Civil Liberties Union contacted the school. “ACLU went on the attack,” said Graham. “They issued us a three page demand letter demanding that we retract the resolution or face litigation. Our response was essentially this: pound sand. If the ACLU wants to go toe to toe on this issue, I’ll take this fight on. Monument Academy is ready to do so. We will do whatever it takes to protect our children.”
Graham, after reading an excerpt from conservative activist Chris Rufo that claimed the existence of transgender people was the “future of Marxism,” urged other school boards to adopt similar policies. “At this point, we need the school boards to stand up while we still can to push back on this very destructive and radical agenda that has been slammed on the backs of our children,” he said.
Salt, who was elected Academy School District 20’s board president following the resignation of Tom LaValley, said District 20 has no plans to adopt a policy similar to Monument Academy’s.