Colorado Senate committee passes bill that would require schools to use students' chosen names

House Bill 24-1039 defines a chosen name as any name a student requests to be called that is different from their legal name but reflects their gender identity.
Posted at 10:25 PM, Mar 25, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-26 11:56:50-04

DENVER — The Colorado Senate Education Committee heard passionate testimony late into Monday night from people on both sides of a bill that would make it a discriminatory practice for schools to call students by something that is not their chosen name.

House Bill 24-1039 passed on a 4-3 vote out of the Senate Education Committee on Monday.

The bill would require Colorado school boards of education and pilot schools to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender expression to include a student's chosen name. A written policy that specifies it is discriminatory to "knowingly or intentionally" use a name that is not a student's chosen name would have to be implemented.

The bill defines a chosen name as any name a student requests to be called that is different from their legal name but reflects their gender identity.

“This bill is asking educators to use a child's chosen name when they're in school. And this is really important because children are going to learn better, have better access to education, and this is going to save lives," said State Senator Faith Winter, D - Adams, Broomfield, and Weld counties.

Winter is one of the prime sponsors of HB24-1039. She said the bill was amended in the House of Representatives before coming to the Senate.

“If you fail as a teacher to use the correct name, we don't want the teacher penalized in a punitive way, right," said Winter. "We're being aspirational in this bill, and aspirational in how we are treating children and using their names. So, we took some of those punitive measures out, which I agree with.”

Winter said the concept of the bill came from the Colorado Youth Advisory Council.

“This came from the youth of our state saying, 'We want to save our friends' lives. And this is one way to do it that just makes sense,'" said Winter.

Z Williams is transgender and supports the bill. They explained how their time in high school was incredibly difficult.

"When I was 15 years old, I was dragged into the bathroom and assaulted by my classmates. I went from being a straight A student to dropping out of high school after a year and a half because I was so bullied and so unhappy in school," Williams said. “That was one of hundreds of incidences of being thrown into lockers or being called horrible names that stayed with me for a very long time.”

Williams said schools should create an environment where all children feel safe and affirmed and believes this bill will help with that goal.

“This bill is one step that is shown in research that supporting children through social transition, it has huge improvements in their overall quality of life and their academic performance and their social engagement," said Williams.

Joe Currin is a member of Gays Against Groomers, an organization that opposes "the sexualization, indoctrination and medicalization of children under the guise of LGBTQIA+," according to its website.

“We are firmly opposed in this bill. This bill is designed to circumvent parents' rights," said Currin. “We believe firmly that it should be an adult decision, not a children's decision... You're still growing up, your brain is still forming, you're not there yet. And specifically, your 13-year-old self is very different from your 18-year-old self."

Since HB24-1039 passed out of the Senate Education Committee with amendments, it would have to go back to the House of Representatives for concurrence if it clears the Senate.

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