NOONAN | State House bills at the heart of our story | Opinion

Paula Nounan

Here is the most important reason why all aspects of United States and Colorado history should be taught in public schools. At each session of the General Assembly, the impacts of history become part of legislation. Without citizens’ knowledge of the contextual story and its consequences, lawmakers and citizens cannot fairly assess whether bills should be supported, opposed, amended, or monitored, depending on the position platform options. of the Secretary of State’s bill.

SB22-139 features a new state holiday, Juneteenth, the nation’s second Independence Day on June 19, which celebrates the event in 1865, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation and months after the end of the Civil War, when black slaves in Texas learned they were free men and women. The announcement took place in Galveston, Texas, when Union General Gordon Granger delivered the message to a state that was one of the last strongholds of the Confederacy. Jim Crow-era black citizens celebrated June 19 on properties purchased for the purpose called Emancipation Parks. From now on, all Coloradans will know how to openly celebrate the day all over the state.

SB22-012, Versions of the Colorado Constitution, reflects the malleable nature of our state document. When the constitution was first printed, it appeared in three languages. According to the bill, the constitution “establishes the rights, duties, and responsibilities of the citizens of Colorado.” Since 1910, the citizens of Colorado have been able to amend the constitution by initiative. This is a special gift, recently changed, but still in effect. The bill states that “the history contained in the constitution of Colorado is an important asset, and the original constitution as well as an updated version … should be freely available to all residents of the state.” Our state constitution, with its different versions reflecting different eras, can guide how history is presented in our public schools.

This state history should certainly include Colorado’s relationship to our land tribes as described in SB22-104 and SB22-148. SB22-104 states that tribal governments must be included in grant programs offered to other local governments, typically municipalities, counties, cities, etc. This means the Ute Mountain Utes and Southern Utes will be eligible for grants to help their citizens just as other local government agencies in Colorado can support theirs. This is a significant correction of years of discrimination against citizens not only of the tribes but also of the state and the nation.

Likewise, SB22-148 is offering $5 million to build a behavioral and mental health facility to support the Land Tribes who have been “mistreated by the federal government for the past two centuries,” according to the bill’s statement. Native Americans have the least access to behavioral and mental health services and experience significantly higher substance abuse, mental health, and behavioral health issues than any other US demographic. Bill finds a historical causal relationship that he tries to mitigate with this $5 million credit, a small breach in a big debt.

HB22-1107 addresses the “historically low expectations and limited societal opportunities that have prevented people with intellectual and developmental disabilities from enjoying the benefits associated with higher education.” The bill further asserts that “many people with intellectual disabilities live in poverty with few prospects other than exceptionally low-paying jobs.” The bill transforms a pilot program into a grant program for higher education institutions that develop academic and career pathways for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to find good jobs and live independently.

SB22-128 will change the rules on peremptory challenges in jury trials. “Historically, peremptory challenges have been used to discriminate against qualified prospective jurors on the basis of…race or ethnicity.” The bill allows the court or opposing counsel to object to a peremptory challenge based on invalid grounds such as “having had prior contact with law enforcement officials” or “residing in certain neighborhoods”. The purpose of the bill is to ensure that anyone having a jury trial has confidence in the integrity of the justice system.

Another bill, HB22-1206, Prohibiting Discriminatory Practices in Public Schools, apparently supports the intentions of the bills above. The legislation “prohibits the teaching or use of educational materials in public schools that promote discrimination.” However, the purpose of the bill is to prevent the teaching of any material that could cause a student of a specific race or ethnicity to feel “discomfort, guilt, anguish or psychological stress” because of their race or ethnicity.

Fortunately, the bill does not prohibit students and teachers of a particular race or ethnicity from feeling outrage and outrage at historical events and contexts, or from feeling a intense need to learn from history and change our laws to improve and strengthen our current ways of life. with each other to secure our “inalienable rights” to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” as stated in our most historic document, the Declaration of Independence.

Paula Noonan is the owner of Colorado Capitol Watch, the state’s premier legislature tracking platform.