Students, Surveys & Sex
Sex, Religion and Your High School
By Joyce Rankin, Colorado Board of Education
What is going on in your local school these days? Whether online or in-person, taxpayers, parents, school board members, teachers, principals and superintendents need to need to know what’s going on in their schools and know the law.
Recently Aspen High School parents brought a serious problem to my attention. The principal and several teachers formed an “Equity Team”. They explained it was to help them address the “complex issue of equity”. No parents or community stakeholders were included on the “Team”. The “Team” developed a survey that included questions of a private, personal nature and made it a required assignment. Class time was allowed for the survey to be completed and submitted. Students were instructed to submit their work anonymously.
The 40-question multiple choice survey included:
“I identify as….” and the students could choose one of the following, “male, female, transgender, gender non-conforming, non-binary, gender-expansive, or I prefer not to answer.
Another question wanted to know how a student identified sexually, “I am….” Heterosexual, Bisexual, Gay/Lesbian, Queer, Questioning, Asexual, or I prefer not to answer.
Another question asks: With what religious background, if any, do you most identify. There were 24 choices in this category.
The survey also asks the educational experience of your parents or guardians.
Other questions include, How do you rate Aspen High School based on your direct experiences? racist or non-racist? (the “Team” used the term anti-racist), How would you rate Aspen High School based on your direct experiences? Homophobic or non-homophobic (The “Team” again used the term “anti”-homophobic).
When the survey was brought to my attention, I immediately contacted the district superintendent. He had not been aware of the survey until several parents brought it to his attention. I then consulted Colorado School Laws and a lawyer.
Colorado law is very specific. A “school district employee who requires participation in a survey…shall obtain the written consent of a student’s parent or legal guardian….whether the information is personally identifiable or not, concerning…Sexual behavior and attitudes …Religious practices, affiliations or beliefs.”
It’s clear that the principal and teachers at this school broke the law. Even if a survey is anonymous, parents must be notified and give permission before it is assigned to the students.
The survey was given online. The students’ answers remain with the company administering the survey and collecting the information. Google Classroom was the vehicle used. The teacher provided a code for the student to access the assignment. Where do the answers now reside? Can it be traced back to the school, teacher and individual class? How will this information be used in the future? Who paid for the survey? How much did the survey and any subsequent analysis cost?
There are still unanswered questions. Parents have a right to know the answers. Could this happen again? Is it happening currently in other Colorado schools? Colorado has laws to protect students. However, taxpayers, parents, school board members, teachers, principals and superintendents, also have a responsibility.
Joyce Rankin, from Garfield County, was re-elected in November to the State Board of Education representing the Third Congressional District. She writes columns to share with constituents in the 29 counties she represents which includes Leadville and the Lake County School District.
CMC Presents Virtual “The Nina Variations”
By Kristin Carlson, Colorado Mountain College
Sopris Theatre Company at Colorado Mountain College announces the final show of their season, “The Nina Variations.” Written by Colorado native Steven Dietz, the play pays homage to Chekhov’s classic, “The Seagull,” while taking aim at modern misunderstandings of romantic love. In 43 variations of the final scene, Chekhov’s star-crossed lovers, Nina and Treplev, rehash what went wrong in their relationship and explore how they might have prevented it.
Brad Moore, director of the show and theatre operations manager at CMC Spring Valley, said one of the greatest challenges this past year has been finding plays that lend themselves to the socially distanced staging required during a pandemic. “The Nina Variations” appealed to Moore not only because of its clever script, but because it’s written by a playwright who welcomes unconventional casting.
Typically, a two-character play requires only two performers, but Dietz invites directors to consider nontraditional and multi-casting to represent an array of intimate relationships, each with their own unique variations. This flexibility allowed Sopris Theatre to produce a show with eight cast members while maintaining safe performance practices, because only two actors take the stage at a time.
“This is an interesting work to explore,” said Moore. “It opened up the possibility to cast multiple couples who could be near one another for rehearsals without concern for their safety.”
Moore explained that two of the pairs are couples in real life. The third pair are members of the same COVID-19 friend pod.
“The fourth pair will perform their scenes in a Zoom call and are physically distanced when in the same room,” he said. “There is a heightened sense of separation in those scenes which is really poignant.”
The cast represents the various aspects of Nina (an aspiring actress) and Treplev (an aspiring writer). The four couples include: Chris and Jamie Walsh, Ciara Morrison and James Steindler, Joshua Adamson and Bostyn Elswick, and Brendan T. Cochran and Christina Cappelli. All except Cappelli have studied theater at CMC.
One of the most interesting choices Moore made was to use gender-neutral casting for the pairing of Morrison as Treplev and Steindler as Nina. “It just made sense as we explored the text,” he said. Steindler said he was originally cast as Treplev but quickly realized that it could be interesting to swap, to see the show through the lens of another role. “Like Nina, I’m young and idealistic and want certain things, like success, but I’ve been humbled by life experience. So has she,” he said.
After multiple readings, Steindler said he felt more deeply connected to the play and its source of inspiration as well. “Chekhov doesn’t have one hero figure. Each character has their own personal motivations that make them human, not heroes or villains,” he said.
Morrison confessed that the idea of playing Treplev was a challenge at first, because she had already begun stepping into Nina’s shoes. But she soon realized that the switch reenergized her experience in unexpected ways.
“I discovered different truths in the show by getting into Treplev’s mindset,” said Morrison. “It opened new thoughts and ideas about the play as a whole. I think this show really invites diversity, inclusion and exploration,” she said.
Performances stream promptly April 9, 10, 16, 17, 23 and 24 at 7 p.m. and April 11, 18 and 25 at 2 p.m. Post-show conversations, hosted by CMC theatre graduate Jesse Monsalve, will be held on Zoom immediately following the streamed performances on April 9, 17 and 25.
US Bank is the season sponsor for Sopris Theatre and presenting sponsor for “The Nina Variations.” Tickets are available at https://showtix4u.com. Season ticket holders and full-time students may also secure tickets via firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, https://coloradomtn.edu/theatre.
Discount College Housing for Fall 2021
The Colorado Mountain College Board of Trustees held a regularly scheduled work session and meeting via Zoom on March 23. During the pre-meeting work session, trustees reviewed a preliminary report on capital planning. Mary Boyd, CMC vice president of fiscal affairs, shared conceptual drafts regarding building additions for academic programs including space for new nursing simulation labs. Because housing shortages have become ever more pronounced in the high-cost mountain communities where CMC has campuses, the board also discussed investments in student housing in several potential locations.
Joining the board for the virtual meeting and a Q/A session was Dr. Angie Paccione, executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education. Paccione is familiar to the CMC community having served as a keynote speaker at two of the college’s commencement ceremonies.
What’s the Fall Going to Look Like?
Now that local, state and national health officials are projecting a more positive outlook for the fall regarding COVID-19, CMC is beginning to carefully plan to return to a more normal student experience. As the college’s enrollment team answers inquiries from prospective students about CMC, there’s a central focus, according to Shane Larson, CMC vice president of student affairs.
“’They ask, ‘What’s the fall going to look like?” Larson said. “That’s one of the main questions we’re answering.” The college has launched a web page that highlights some of the changes for fall at https://coloradomtn.edu/open.
To incentivize early commitments for the college’s residence halls, trustees approved a $500 discount per student for on-campus housing costs for the 2021-22 academic year. To receive the discount, students must submit their housing applications and deposits by May 1. The date coincides with National College Decision Day when prospective students are encouraged to decide where they’ll attend school in the fall. The discounts will apply to student housing at the college’s three residential campuses at Spring Valley at Glenwood Springs, Steamboat Springs and Leadville.
A bright outlook
According to Boyd, Moody’s Investors Service recently confirmed that the nation’s higher education sector has improved its ranking from “negative” during the pandemic slowdown in 2020 to “stable” today. Boyd noted that colleges and universities are expected to improve their revenue prospects over the next 12-18 months. CMC’s financial rating remains strong with an Aa3 rating.
Trustees also unanimously approved:
- A contract to complete remodeling at CMC Spring Valley’s Sopris Hall
- An engagement for the required independent audit of the college’s financials and controls for 2020-21
- Two sabbatical requests for the 2021-22 academic year
- Trustee board meeting dates for the 2021-22 academic year
- Fencing for the Leadville campus’s Get Outdoors Leadville! gear library building
- A USDA Rural Bridge Development Grant