Boulder Democrat Angelika Schroeder joined Republicans on Colorado’s Board of Education today in a 4-3 vote granting a charter school’s request for a waiver from Colorado’s new sex-ed law, which requires comprehensive instruction covering LGBT health, consent, and more.
Democrats gained a majority on the board in 2016, with the election of Rebecca McClellan representing Denver suburbs surround Aurora.
But Schroeder rejected arguments from fellow Democrats to reject–or at least declare unnecessary–the sex-ed waiver for Liberty Common, a Ft. Collins charter school led by former Republican Congressman Bob Schaffer, who insists his school has no plans to teach sex ed.
The Board’s lawyer also counseled against granting the waiver.
Liberty Common became the first public school to be granted a waiver, which is allowed under an updated sex-ed law that cleared the Legislature last year and was later signed by Gov. Jared Polis (D-CO).
Liberty Common stated that it needed the waiver, not because it wanted to teach sex ed but because sex-related topics came up in discussion of “Greek mythology, “Renaissance Art,” and science.
But state Rep. Susan Lontine (D-Denver), one of the sponsors of last year’s sex-ed legislation, told the Board in a letter that Liberty Common’s sex-related discussions in those courses were clearly allowed under the new law.
Lontine wrote that “based on [Liberty Common’s] application as presented, that a waiver is not needed.”
“Again, human sexuality instruction is defined as lessons on abstinence or sexual activity in the context of student health or healthy relationships,” wrote Lontine.
After the vote, Elizabeth Hinkley of the ACLU of Colorado urged the board to issue a written opinion clarifying that Liberty Common didn’t need the waiver based on its reasons for requesting it.
“We request that the Board issue a written opinion with their decision to grant the waiver,” Hinkley said. “As the Board’s legal counsel advised, the Board has the option to provide a written opinion clarifying that, although the waiver was granted, the type of instruction proposed by Liberty is not human sexuality instruction, and therefore a waiver from CRS 22-1-128 is not required. Other similarly situated schools will look to the Board’s decision as guidance. Absent this clarifying opinion, the Board’s decision will cause more confusion for the reasons stated by their own legal counsel.”
Liberty Common’s justification for the waiver, submitted to the board, states that the school instructs on sexuality “only within the domain of science.”
But the waiver application states that “sweeping definitions” of concepts like “healthy relationships” have “overbroad applicability,” meaning the school’s discussions in subjects like Greek mythology could be considered sexual education and could run them afoul with the law.
“We bristle at the notion of a new curricular mandate coming from the state Capitol under any terms, and this one in particular is onerous for a variety of reasons,” Schaffer, a longtime champion of conservative causes in Colorado, has said.
CORRECTION: This post was corrected to state that State Board Member Angelika Schroeder, not Valentina (Val) Flores, voted for the waiver.