CREEDE — In meetings held by the Creede School District Board of Education on Jan. 26 and Feb. 23, public complaints were heard from parents, community members and Creede BOE member Tim Bachicha regarding a student identifying as non-binary.
On Jan. 26, board member Bachicha addressed concerns he stated were coming from several parents and students about how the school was handling a situation with a student who identified as non-binary.
In simple terms, a non-binary person is someone who does not identify as exclusively a man or a woman. Someone who is non-binary might feel like a mix of genders, or like they have no gender at all.
Bachicha pointed out that a letter was sent to the school board addressing these issues and asked the board to follow up with parents and students to make sure the situation was being handled in accordance with federal, state and local school policies and laws.
Creede School Principal John Goss made it clear they were an “all-inclusive school,” following all state and federal laws and policies.
“We abide by the laws issued by federal and state as well as our own non-discriminatory policy. We are an all-inclusive school who does not discriminate against any student, teacher or staff for any reason which is highlighted in our AC-Nondiscrimination/Equal Opportunity policy. We will follow and abide by our school’s policy,” Goss said.
The policy referenced above is as follows, “The Board is committed to providing a safe learning and work environment where all members of the school community are treated with dignity and respect. The schools in the district are subject to all federal and state laws and constitutional provisions prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, ancestry or need for special education services. Accordingly, no otherwise qualified student, employee, applicant for employment or member of the public shall be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to unlawful discrimination under any district program or activity on the basis of race, color, national origin, ancestry, creed, religion, sex (which includes marital status), sexual orientation (which includes transgender), disability or need for special education services. Discrimination against employees and applicants for employment based on age, genetic information and conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth is also prohibited in accordance with state and/or federal law.
“This policy and regulation shall be used to address all concerns regarding unlawful discrimination and harassment, except those regarding sexual harassment which are addressed in other Board policies listed in this policy's cross references.”
In the meeting on Feb. 23 the parent of the non-binary student addressed the board.
“After last month's school board meeting, and my comments made at this one, our student feels it's important that we educate the people in our life that care to hear. Our student is non-binary. What does that mean? It means that they identify as both genders as opposed to one or the other. Their preferred pronouns are they/them/theirs. It is important to note that there is a difference between gender and sexuality. Gender is who you are, sexuality is who you are attracted to. Our student is 11, their sexuality is not an issue, yet. Do you need to understand what being non-binary is? No. Do you need to accept them being non-binary? No. You do need to respect them being non-binary and be kind,” stated Kristeen Lopez, the student’s mother.
Lopez in an interview with the Mineral County Miner stated that though the circumstances that brought this issue to light were not what they expected, their main concern is educating those who are willing to learn and to educate people about the high suicide rate among youth who are transitioning.
“LGBTQ+ youth, specifically non-binary and transgender youth have the highest rate of suicide. The Creede School District has been amazing,” Lopez said. “Teachers and staff, especially Keith Crispell and John Goss have been learning along with us and are doing their best.”
The school and school board will continue to be an all-inclusive educational institution and will continue to navigate through similar circumstances to the best of their ability.
The school also felt it important to state that the issue with the student did not directly correlate to another issue at the school. In a statement released in the school’s February newsletter, Goss explained that an agreement with the Silver Thread Public Health District and the school hosting an Americorps volunteer did not have anything to do with the events related to the non-binary student.
“I have been fielding questions about our Americorps service members, so today I’ll make that my topic,” Goss stated. “The Alpine Achievers Initiative (AAI), based in Monte Vista, started in 2012 serving one school in the Valley. AAI provides Americorps members to serve in Valley schools. Now there are more than 30 Americorps members serving 17 schools in the area. This is the second year we have had Americorps members as part of our school staff. Our teachers will tell you how important their service has been in our daily lives. This year in Creede School District, the Americorps members have been working one-on-one with students, assisting in classrooms, tutoring, overseeing recess, delivering lunches, and supporting elementary specials.”
At this time the school district is no longer in need of an Americorps volunteer and opted to not continue to host Americorps until the need arises again in the future.