Digital Originals

published : 2023-11-09

Colorado Bill Aims to Protect Students' Preferred Names in Schools

Youth-driven bill seeks to address gender identity and mental health in Colorado schools

A photo of Colorado students engaging in a passionate discussion about the importance of using preferred names in schools. (Taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV)

A bill pushed by the Colorado Youth Advisory Council (COYAC) aims to ensure that school staff address students by their preferred names.

Under the proposed legislation, refusal to use a student's preferred name would be considered discrimination.

The bill highlights the importance of providing a safe and validating environment for students to be their authentic selves.

Teenager Meghan Taylor, speaking in support of the bill, emphasized the significance of schools as spaces where students can live and be validated as themselves.

COYAC, comprised of young people, voted to advance three bills to the state Legislative Council, two of which focus on gender identity and one on increasing access to mental health support.

An image showcasing a diverse group of teenagers, including Meghan Taylor, confidently advocating for the non-legal name change bill. (Taken with a Nikon D850)

One of the bills would require schools to use a student's preferred name in various contexts, including class, extracurricular activities, yearbooks, and student identification cards.

COYAC argues that using legal names in class and school publications can lead to humiliation and 'deadnaming' of Colorado youth.

The legislation also proposes the creation of a task force to provide policy implementation recommendations, including procedures related to parental notification.

COYAC suggests that parental approval may not be required for non-legal name changes as long as they do not appear on external documents accessible to parents or guardians.

During a hearing, the name change bill faced opposition from some Republican lawmakers and parents, who raised concerns about forced speech and transition of children without parental consent.

A photograph capturing the intense debate between legislators, parents, and students during the hearing on the name change bill. (Taken with a Sony Alpha A7 III)

Another bill approved by COYAC aims to provide state grants for training healthcare providers in gender-affirming care and establish a task force to study the current status of youth gender-affirming care in Colorado.

The third bill seeks to increase access to mental health care by offering student debt relief to school psychologists who work in the state for at least three years.

These bills, addressing gender identity and mental health, will be considered by the Legislative Council in the upcoming legislative session.

If approved, they will be introduced in 2024 and potentially impact the lives of Colorado students.