Grand Forks schools narrowly OK new pronoun and parental rights law

The Fargo School Board recently made national headlines for a few hours by vowing to defy a new state law setting standards on how schools handle transgender students and related issues. It was a close call, but Valley News indicates cooler heads have prevailed on the Grand Forks School Board.

In a 5-4 vote, the Grand Forks school board has voted to rescind its policy relating to transgender students.

Superintendent Terry Brenner, in conjunction with legal council, recommended the policy be rescinded, saying its now against state law. In part, his memo reads:

Now that the 68th Legislative Assembly has completed its work; District Administration is bringing to the Board’s attention legislation passed by the Assembly relating to the accommodation of transgender individuals. HB 1522, which was recently signed by the Governor and included an emergency clause, will become effective immediately upon filing with the secretary of state.

Brenner went on to summarize the main points of the new state law banning schools from secretly assisting students with gender dysphoria behind their parents’ backs, along with other common sense requirements.

In short, the new law does the following:

• Prohibits a public school district from adopting a policy that requires or prohibits an individual from using a student’s or other individual’s preferred gender pronoun.

• Allows a school district to establish a plan, with approval from the parent or guardian, for the use of a separate restroom accommodation for a transgender student; however, a school district must prohibit a student from using a restroom that does not correspond with the student’s biological sex.

• Prohibits a school district, school, or teacher from withholding or concealing information about a student’s transgender status from the student’s parent or legal guardian.

The new policy replaces a convoluted seven-page document of rules and regulations that many teachers and administrators must privately be relieved to see go away.

The procedures covered student transition meetings, preferred name and pronouns, restroom and locker room accessibility, current gender marker, plans for changing clothes for phy ed class, plans for field trips and gendered activities such as sports, among others. In short, it basically puts the system at the disposal of the student in question.

If accommodations are requested, the principal or designee shall request a meeting with the transgender or gender nonconforming student and, if legally required to do so or the student has authorized, with their parent/guardian upon the student’s enrollment in the District or in response to a currently enrolled student’s exploration of gender expression or identity.

After the vote to comply with the state law, a few school board members couldn’t let it go.

Board members echoed the feeling that they didn’t have a choice in rescinding the policy due to North Dakota’s new law, several saying the district is now “on the wrong side of this”.

Board member Joel Larson says the board should take swift action to bring the policy back as soon as they legally can. Board President Eric Lunn says the board should focus on getting the law changed, rather than getting the policy back; adding this isn’t the end of the story, but probably the beginning of it.

For now, however, teachers and staff in Grand Forks public schools can start focusing again on educating students, instead of being distracted by the latest liberal fad.