ST. PAUL, Minn. – As Alpha News previously reported, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) is planning to roll out a “gender toolkit” for schools dealing with transgender and gender nonconforming students. Now scores of state lawmakers are speaking out against the directive.
Last week, a draft of the “Toolkit to Ensure Safe and Supportive Schools for Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students” was made public by the Child Protection League. Now the controversial toolkit has caught the attention of state lawmakers. More than 60 legislators signed a letter to MDE Commissioner Brenda Cassellius voicing their disapproval of the directive.
“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 lawmakers wrote. “We are concerned about how the messages presented in the “Toolkit” will impact Minnesota’s children, and believe discussions regarding gender identity should be left to parents.”
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. The toolkit is based off of guidance and protections put in place by the Obama administration commonly referred to as Title IX. Back in February, the U.S. Department of Education and Justice withdrew those provisions.
Despite the repeal of Title IX, MDE has continuously encouraged schools to follow the Obama-era guidelines. Following the repeal, Commissioner Cassellius sent a letter to schools across the state, and and “strongly urged” superintendents and directors to stand by the transgender protections. The soon-to-be released toolkit appears to be a follow-up to their request for schools to stand by the rescinded policy.
The adherence to the rescinded Title IX law puts MDE and schools potentially at odds with Minnesota Human Rights Act 363A.24 which states provisions of full and equal enjoyment of public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,” Josh Collins, Director of Communications for MDE, told Alpha News, “not the Minnesota Human Rights Act.”
Collins has been quick to defend the toolkit, saying it is just meant to provide schools additional information. According to Collins, it is not meant to be a guidance or rule.
“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 said. “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.”
Despite MDE’s claims that it is simply information for schools, lawmakers are not buying it, calling the toolkit “fraudulent” and a “harmful agenda.”
“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 wrote. “State resources should be focused on ensuring all of our kids, regardless of background, receive the best education possible, not on promoting a controversial and progressive social agenda.”