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A controversial transgender and gender nonconforming “resource toolkit” drafted by the Minnesota Department of Education’s (MDE) School Safety and Technical Assistance Council recently caught the attention of 67 Minnesota legislators.
The 29 page document — “Toolkit to Ensure Safe and Supportive Schools for Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students” — purports to be a compilation of “best practices that schools can use” to address gender identity.
The toolkit is based on a controversial Title IX transgender policy imposed by the Obama administration that is no longer in effect. MDE insists the package should be viewed as advisory in nature only.
“The toolkit does not serve as guidance, direction, statute or rule; it is intended to provide additional information for districts to consider as they make their own locally-determined policies,” said Josh Collins, MDE Communications Director in a statement to news outlets.
But state lawmakers have signed and delivered strongly worded letters — one from the MN House and one from the MN Senate — to Commissioner Brenda Cassellius, calling out the toolkit as a “fraudulent and harmful agenda.”
“We are writing to express our opposition to the Minnesota Department of Education’s planned distribution of their ‘Toolkit’ resource for dealing with gender identity issues in schools,” the letters said.
“We believe that the Department’s resources would best serve Minnesota’s children in other areas, instead of advancing a progressive social agenda, which many experts consider harmful.”
The document addresses many aspects of school life from athletics to overnight field trips, restrooms, and locker rooms. Most controversial of all, the toolkit labels parents who may disagree with their child’s choice of identity as “non-accepting parents” that may be guilty of maltreatment.
“…[T]he family’s non-acceptance should not override the school’s responsibility — Minnesota law requires school staff to report maltreatment of students,” the MDE document states.
Despite the Obama-era Title IX guidance being rescinded by the Trump administration, “…Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius strongly urge school boards and school districts to adhere to the prior administration’s guidance,” according to the draft document.
The toolkit instructs school administrators and teachers that they are “required to,” “must,” and “should” support transgender and gender nonconforming students in order to comply with the withdrawn federal rule.
Athletics: Requires that “schools provide transgender students with the right to participate in such activities, including athletics, in a manner consistent with their gender identity.”
Overnight Field Trips: “Students cannot be required to stay in separate, single occupancy accommodations because they are transgender or gender nonconforming… [S]chools must give transgender or gender nonconforming student’s access to housing consistent with their gender identity.”
Facilities, Restrooms, and Locker Rooms: “…[S]chools should support transgender and gender nonconforming students in using the facilities that align with their gender identity.”
Critics see the toolkit as anything but voluntary.
“The Toolkit deliberately misleads school boards, administrators, principals, and teachers into believing that they are required by law to implement this radical gender policy,” according to the Child Protection League, a citizen watchdog group.
State lawmakers also question MDE prioritizing gender identity, given longstanding disparities in student achievement.
“With the largest achievement gap in the nation, students deserve your undivided attention on how to improve student learning. No time should be spent by state agencies promoting a social agenda that stands in conflict with views of many parents whose tax dollars fund our schools and the Minnesota Department of Education,” the legislators said in their letters.
The School Safety and Technical Assistance Council’s next meeting is June 19, and it is likely the Council will discuss the toolkit. According to the Child Protection League, the toolkit’s publication goal date is set for June 30.
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