Education, Featured, Free Speech, Original Report, Sherrie Peif, Weld County, Windsor

Parents grapple over preferred pronoun request by Windsor-Severance school district teachers

WINDSOR — Parents on both sides of the LGBTQ+ debate on Monday shared passionate and emotional testimony to the Windsor-Severance Re-4 School District Board of Education over controversial policy and curriculum that teaches social and emotional practices, along with asking students in middle and high school their preferred gender pronouns.

“I feel like students should be learning each other’s names, not how they identify,” said Severance High School parent Katie Ramadi.

Ramadi spoke at the meeting, she said, only because Re-4 Superintendent Dan Seegmiller would not meet with her for at least three weeks and neither her son’s teacher or principal responded to requests from Ramadi to meet.

Katie Ramadi

“As a conservative Christian mother, along with probably the vast majority of the school district and even you the school board who are men and women of faith, are we also teaching children in the classroom to respect my child’s belief that there are only two genders?” Ramadi said.

In all, 14 people spoke to the board, with about half agreeing with Ramadi and the other half disagreeing. Seegmiller appeared uninterested and unengaged throughout the meeting, rarely looking up from his computer as parents talked. When Complete Colorado attempted to contact him, Lisa Relou, a spokesperson for the district, said he was too busy to talk.

Ramadi and others took issue with the fact that some teachers are requiring students to let the classroom know by what gender pronouns they prefer to be called. Ramadi said this is a waste of classroom time, especially when so much classroom time has been lost to COVID already.

The school board moved their meeting from the administration building to the Windsor High School auditorium because of an expected large crowd. The board announced that all future meetings would also be in the auditorium.

The meeting was not without controversy. Some parents were upset they could not speak because they arrived late to the meeting and missed the final call for signing up. Others expressed frustration that it appeared someone from the school invited LGBTQ+ policy supporters to the meeting to counter parents who were speaking out against it.

At one point during the meeting one speaker thanked the board for inviting her to speak. The speaker almost immediately corrected herself and said she invited herself to speak.

Relou denied any member of the board or district having invited anyone to the meeting to counter the parents upset with the policies, which would be a violation of the Colorado Association of School Board ethical standards.

Dan Seegmiller

One parent who identified herself as not being from the Windsor school district, but familiar with a woman who organizes all the LGBTQ+ clubs for the Windsor schools, spoke about the mental anguish and confusion caused to her child by this woman at a similar club in Wellington.

The woman, whose identity Complete Colorado will keep anonymous as not to identify her child, did not mention the name of the person she was referring to, but rather spoke to what she called the “disingenuous luring” of her child to an after school event that the student did not know was an LGBTQ+ event.

“I am the parent of a (12-year-old) who was mentally and socially victimized by a stranger who was invited into his public school without my knowledge,” the woman said. “His art teacher invited him to stay for art club immediately after school, but it was actually LGBTQ club.”

She went on to explain what happened at the meeting and asked the board to make sure that this type of behavior was not allowed without the prior knowledge of parents.

However, the woman she was referring to, Kimberly Chambers, spoke shortly after and identified herself as the person referenced. Chambers, who is the director for SPLASH, an LGBTQ+ program for youth 12 and over and SKITTLES, an LGBTQ+ program for children 11 and younger, has been the subject of multiple protests and news reports for her work in Windsor over the past few years.

Kimberly Chambers

She explained her program and its importance to help curb teen suicide by LGBTQ+ children who are not supported.

“In 2017, 38 kids came through our program that reported a Windsor or Severance address,” Chambers said. “1n 2018, 43 students came through our program … In 2019, 62 students came through our program. We are not creating more LGTBQ people, but what we do, do as a program is create a space where they can authentically be themselves. … You just heard I go into (classrooms) at the request of teachers. I absolutely do because seeing yourself represented is really powerful.”

Chambers didn’t stop at just explaining her program, however, she also publicly implied that the woman’s child came to her program because he was too scared to tell his parents he was homosexual.

“When they come to those clubs, they don’t always tell their parents because it’s not safe,” she said causing gasps among the crowd and the woman who spoke from Wellington to leave the room crying.

When questioned about Chambers’ implications and asked why the superintendent didn’t stop Chambers, Relou said free speech prohibits them from stopping speakers from expressing their opinion.

“As a school district, we are focused on student learning and achievement,” Relou said. “We respect the rights of members of our community to hold varying viewpoints on different issues. For our part, we will continue to encourage members of our community to express their opinions respectfully in public forums hosted by the school district.”

Relou did not respond to questions concerning if the district planned to address the division among parents in the community and look for a compromise.

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