ROSEVILLE, Minn. – The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) will soon roll out a new directive on how schools should handle gender issues.
A draft of MDE’s “Toolkit to Ensure Safe and Supportive Schools for Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students” was recently made public by the Child Protection League (CPL). The draft was obtained by CPL at a Safe & Supportive Technical Assistance Council meeting earlier this month, and the official toolkit has yet to be released to the public for review. Despite this, the toolkit is already raising eyebrows.
The draft of the toolkit contains various practices schools can use when handling transgender and gender nonconforming students, including guidance on how to handle student housing and overnight accommodations when school sports teams travel. In a post on their website, CPL called the toolkit a “one-sided and destructive view of gender” that is harmful to kids.
Josh Collins, Director of Communications for MDE, was quick to defend the toolkit, saying it is just meant to provide schools additional information.
“The toolkit is a collection of resources and best practices for school districts and charter schools on a topic that has generated questions from schools across the state,” Collins told Alpha News. “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.”
CPL also called out the toolkit for referring to since-overturned Obama-era transgender provisions as if it were still law.
“The toolkit continually quotes the 2016 Guidance as if it is still in effect, quoting such language as “should” and “must”, and couching the toolkit in terms such as “Best Practices” and “2016 Title IX Guidance.”” CPL writes on their website.
Back in February, President Donald Trump rescinded protections and guidelines put in place by the Obama administration for transgender students in school. The federal law, known as Title IX, allowed transgender and gender nonconforming students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their gender identity. The Justice and Education departments issued letters to schools reversing the federal policy and guidelines, and turned the issue back to the states.
Gov. Mark Dayton was quick to respond, saying it wasn’t just a state’s rights issue, but a “human rights issue.” In a letter to schools across the state, MDE praised the governor’s response, and “strongly urged” schools to continue abiding by the guidance of the Obama administration. The soon-to-be released toolkit appears to be a follow-up to their request for schools to stand by the rescinded policy.
MDE’s stance on gender issues has also raised legal questions. Through encouraging schools to set their own policies regarding gender, MDE appears to be going against Minnesota Human Rights Act 363A.24 which states provisions of full and equal enjoyment of public facilities does not apply to locker rooms, bathrooms, and other such facilities.
“The resources in the toolkit, as they relate to bathrooms and locker rooms, are based on the federal Title IX law,” Collins said, “not the Minnesota Human Rights Act.”
The toolkit is expected to be discussed at the June meeting of the School Safety Technical Assistance Council, and will be made available to school districts following the meeting. While it is not clear if there will be a formal period for the public to voice their opinion on the toolkit, Collins encouraged members of the public to call or email MDE with any questions.