HALL MONITOR: “NO” on Non-Legal Name Changes for Students in Colorado Schools (HB 24-1039)

Name: Colorado House Bill 24-1039, Concerning Non-Legal Name Changes for Students in Schools

Summary: Requires schools to use the preferred, rather than legal, name of students and creates a task force to create non-legal name change policies for schools.

Status: Third reading in the House of Representatives on February 26, 2024

Sponsor: Rep. Stephanie Vigil, Sen. Janice Marchman, and Sen. Faith Winter 

Bill Breakdown:

Colorado HB 24-1039 would require schools to use a student’s preferred name, regardless of whether they have legally acquired a name change, for all school-related activities and unofficial documentation. Violations of preferred name usage are considered discrimination.

The bill would further create a task force, appointed by the Colorado Department of Education comprised of school administrators, counselors, and teachers, to create procedures for schools to implement usage of preferred names. This would include procedures for parental notification, and instances where the student does not use their preferred name at home. No parents are included in the task force.

Why does PDE Action oppose this bill? 

Parents Defending Education, our partner organization, has tracked more than 1,000 school districts across the country that have parental exclusion policies. These policies state that schools may not inform parents if and when their child requests to use another name or pronouns at school. 

PDE Action believes that parents, not school employees, are a child’s first and foremost caretaker. It’s vital for the wellbeing of children to include parents in conversations about mental health and wellbeing. HB 24-1039 does not include parents in the conversation about their children’s identity and mental health. The bill contains no protections for parental rights or notification, and it empowers a committee of school employees what to do if a child uses a name that they don’t use at home–potentially withholding this information from parents.

This bill also violates the freedom of speech by compelling employees to use non-legal names for students, potentially at odds with the employees’ moral convictions. Precedent set in federal court regarding the use of preferred pronouns establishes that government entities, including schools, may not compel speech. PDE Action believes that both employees and students have the right to free speech and protection against compelled speech. Our partner organization, Parents Defending Education, recently secured a victory in the Eighth Circuit in protecting students from compelled speech regarding pronoun usage.

PDE Action opposes Colorado House Bill 24-1039 because it hinders parents’ right to be involved in the wellbeing of their children, and denies the freedom of speech for school employees.