Burnsville district apologizes for ‘confusion’ surrounding new policy but concerns remain 

"It's clear they're saying they will involve parents in every situation except for when they won't, and that's going to be up to our discretion, not yours," one parent advocate said.

Burnsville district
School Board Chair Lesley Chester, left, and Superintendent Dr. Theresa Battle. (ISD 191)

The Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District said it plans to clarify language in a new district policy on transgender students and apologized for any “confusion” the issue caused.

After reading an Alpha News story on the policy, many parents were outraged and began pulling their kids from the district, according to a teacher who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. The teacher claimed at least 25 kids have left the district and said “more are likely to come.”

School Board Chair Lesley Chester apologized to parents in a Dec. 8 statement.

Chester said one of the main concerns she heard from parents is that the policy would deny parents access to information about their children.

“This isn’t true,” she wrote in a statement. “It’s more accurate to say that district staff will provide information to parents about their students in almost all instances.”

In its current form, the policy explicitly states that district employees will conceal information from parents: “School district personnel shall not disclose information that may reveal a student’s transgender or gender-expansive status to others, including parents and other school personnel, unless legally required to do so or unless the student has authorized such disclosure.”

Presumably, this is the section of the policy that the board plans to update.

“As a district, we apologize for the confusion this caused. We are planning to update the language to be more clear about our ongoing commitment to work with families. We appreciate parents’ feedback and will always respect parents’ and students’ rights,” Chester said.

However, she noted that the district will still continue to withhold information from parents “when the student requests the information be kept private AND keeping the information private is in the best interests of the student.” She said this may be necessary to “protect the child from physical or emotional harm.”

“In short, the guidelines do not change how we work with families; they reflect state law and current policy when it comes to student privacy. However, the wording in one section wasn’t clear about that, and the board is planning to update that language,” Superintendent Theresa Battle said in an internal email.

The district’s response to the situation is insulting, according to Cristine Trooien, executive director of the Minnesota Parents Alliance.

“It’s clear they’re saying they will involve parents in every situation except for when they won’t, and that’s going to be up to our discretion, not yours,” she said. “It’s really insulting.”

Chester’s comments indicate that the district still plans to exclude parents from “these conversations about their own children” because “parents are dangerous,” Trooien said.

“That’s what they’re saying in so many words,” she continued. “There’s a contingent of the population now that has started to pay attention. This is a pivotal moment where parents realize that they turned the reins over to the superintendent and district leadership and now are realizing that they’re being excluded from the conversation. One thing many school boards have in common is they are not willing to respect parental rights.”


Sheila Qualls

Sheila Qualls is an award-winning journalist and former civilian editor of an Army newspaper. Prior to joining Alpha News, she was a Christian Marriage and Family columnist at Patheos.com and a personal coach. Her work has been published in The Upper Room, the MOPS blog, Grown and Flown, and The Christian Post. She speaks nationally on issues involving faith and family.