School District 51 is responding to a call from a Fruita Monument High School LGBTQ club asking that the district does all it can to ensure those students’ rights.

Superintendent Diana Sirko gave the Board of Education an update at its Tuesday meeting on efforts to improve the district’s facilities and policies regarding LGBTQ students. This effort is in response to a June board meeting where members of Fruita’s GOAL (Gender Orientation Acceptance League) Club asked the district to review its policies to make sure they aligned with state law.

“I went and met with them (GOAL) and sat in on their class,” Sirko said. “They actually have a class once a week. What they really are focusing on right now is awareness, making sure students understand what the different initials (LGBTQ) mean.”

Sirko said she thought the district’s policies were adequate and conformed to state law regarding LGBTQ students, but said she was looking at ways to make the facilities more accommodating. Specifically she said the district was looking at having more single occupant bathrooms in its schools that would allow access for students of any gender.

Sirko said the district was also responding to one of GOAL’s specific concerns that all teachers be trained on state laws that protect students. Next year all teachers will have to complete a video training session similar to other issues like mandatory reporting, Sirko said.

“We’re working with One Colorado, which is a state-wide organization that really looks at and focuses on LGBTQ issues,” Sirko said. “They are developing an instrument like that so we’ll be able to use that inclusivity training. I think it was a part that was really important to the students to have staff increase their understanding and mind-set around LGBTQ issues.”

The specific case the students brought up, board member Amy Davis said, was educating teachers about the rights of transgender students to use the bathroom of the gender they identify as, which is required under Colorado law.

“The discordance was really the interpretation of a transgender student’s ability to use the facility of their chosen gender and the law states that they have the right to do that,” Davis said. “The discordance was whether a staff person who was not educated about the policy said, ‘No, you can’t do that,’ which could be an ACLU violation.”

Davis questioned whether the district’s policy was too general and could be misinterpreted by a staff member who may then violate the law. Board member Doug Levinson said he felt the board had committed to do more than give staff a video to watch.

“Our commitment to them was we’d review the policy, align with the state and make sure that at a minimum the staff would be, it’s not just a video you’d check off, you’ve gone through training and understand what the law is,” Levinson said.

Sirko said the district has already responded to some of the students’ concerns and have had fewer issues this school year as a result. She said likewise the district has not had any issues with students pretending to be transgender to gain access to a bathroom or locker room.

Board of Education Vice President Paul Pitton praised the work of the District Wellness Advisory Committee, which helped review the district’s policies as part of this effort.

“They’ve looked at the district’s policies. They’ve looked at state standards on all of this,” Pitton said. “It was a really diverse population on the committee. It’s in good hands. I think they’re coming up with something reasonable that fits all students.”

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