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Colorado Republicans urge continued fight against ‘woke agenda’ in education

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Colorado Republicans urge continued fight against ‘woke agenda’ in education

Dec 02, 2023 | 5:45 am ET
By Suzie Glassman
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Colorado Republicans urge continued fight against ‘woke agenda’ in education
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From left, Colorado Republican Party fundraising chair Darcy Schoening, state Rep. Don Wilson, Monument Academy school board president Ryan Graham and attorney Brad Miller address a Nov. 30 Colorado GOP luncheon on what they called the threat of the "woke agenda" in eduction. (Suzie Glassman for Colorado Newsline)

Top Colorado Republicans gathered this week to urge conservatives across the state to continue fighting against what they called the “woke agenda of the left” in public education.

State Rep. Don Wilson, a Monument Republican, was joined by Monument Academy school board president Ryan Graham and Brad Miller, an attorney for several conservative-leaning school districts and charter schools across the state, at a Nov. 30 luncheon in Englewood organized by the Colorado Republican Party.

Darcy Schoening, former president of El Paso chapter of activist group Moms for Liberty and current media and fundraising chair for the state GOP, invited Miller and Graham to speak about a policy they passed this summer at Monument Academy Charter School.

“Monument Academy was the first school in this state that started really aggressively pushing back on gender ideology,” said Schoening. “We need this policy passed by school boards across the state to protect our children and families from the state legislature.”

The policy mandates that children under 18 must have their parent’s explicit approval to express or identify as a gender that doesn’t correlate to their biological sex at school. Should a student wish to transition gender, assuming their parents approve, and use a gender-specific bathroom or locker room of their new identity, other students can request a staff bathroom or ask a staff member to monitor those areas to ensure the transgender student doesn’t violate their privacy.

“It’s massively absurd to consider that there’s been some sort of massive biological shift, and somehow we got more than a tiny fraction of people that are transgender. It’s make-believe,” said Miller.

“But I think we need to frame the issue correctly. I don’t win hearts and minds if I hammer the silliness of and danger of gender support of people who don’t have a worldview common to mine,” he added. “But I think a lot of folks can at least understand that we should support the role of parents in educating their children.”

Miller argued that schools had gone too far in their interpretation of a 2021 update to the state’s anti-discrimination law, which added gender identity and gender expression as protected classes, by adopting policies that exclude parents from discussions regarding a student’s preferred gender.

Miller didn’t provide an example of a district policy that specifically excludes parents. Some districts, like Jefferson County, which Miller used to represent, have specified that to not discriminate against transgender students, staff can’t disclose information that could reveal a student’s transgender status to others, including parents.

Colorado Republicans urge continued fight against ‘woke agenda’ in education
Teachers, parents and students rallied outside Douglas County School District headquarters in protest of an alleged effort to oust Superintendent Corey Wise on Feb. 3, 2022. (Chase Woodruff/Colorado Newsline)

Graham, who said he is a longtime friend of Miller’s, expressed outrage that the American Civil Liberties Union sent Monument Academy a letter earlier this year asking the school to retract its transgender policy or it would sue.

The ACLU told the school that its refusal to provide students with a restroom consistent with their gender identity is against the law and that the policy “signals open hostility to transgender, gender nonconforming, and nonbinary students, as well as to our state and federal nondiscrimination laws.”

The audience applauded when Graham said Miller’s response to the ACLU was to “essentially tell them to pound sand.”

Graham and Miller believe they will be able to defend the policy on the basis of a 2000 U.S. Supreme Court Decision ruling that the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment guarantees the rights of parents to oversee the care of their children, including their education.

The 2000 case involved parental custody and visitation rights. The Supreme Court has yet to rule on transgender bathroom policies. However, earlier this year, the court ruled that a transgender girl could compete on the girls’ cross country and track teams at her middle school in West Virginia while her appeal moves forward in the West Virginia court system.

Pleas to get involved

Wilson implored the audience to participate in school board and local government meetings to gain policy wins they haven’t been able to make at the state legislative level.

“Conservatives are winning a lot of those battles, and we need to keep that up,” he said. “I ask you all to please participate in school boards or participate in municipalities. That’s where we’re gaining our greatest strength.”

Schoening also acknowledged that Republicans can’t control the state legislature and referred to government as a “complete disaster.” But she said there are conservative pockets across the state that can implement the party’s agenda.

Graham likened the rise in protections for transgender citizens to a “war that is being waged against our children.

“At this point, we need school boards, and we need people to stand up while we still can and push back on this very destructive radical agenda that’s been saddled on the backs of our children,” Graham said.

Miller’s advice to those on school boards was to “get a district leader who is aligned with you if you want to be effective.”

Miller resigned as attorney to the Jefferson County school board in 2015 after voters recalled three conservative-leaning board members in protest of district policy changes. He currently represents the Woodland Park School District, whose superintendent, Ken Witt, was among the ousted board members in Jefferson County.

The agenda pursued by Witt and Miller in Woodland Park has been the subject of national controversy. Last month, voters in the district reelected two of its conservative members, preserving the balance of power on the board.