Osseo School Board introduces policy to ‘prohibit separation’ of students ‘based upon gender’

The policy would provide “one or more safe staff members that gender-nonconforming students can access if they require additional support during the school day."

The Osseo School Board discusses its "gender inclusion policy" at a June 22 meeting. (Osseo Area Schools/YouTube)

A public school board in Minnesota plans to adopt a “gender inclusion policy” that would prevent separating students by gender and would allow all students “access to facilities that align with [their] gender identity.”

At a June 22 Osseo School Board meeting, a gender inclusion policy was brought forward for its first reading, as was agreed on at a May 27 committee meeting.

The draft of the gender inclusion policy says it would “prohibit the separation of students and/or curricular materials based upon gender” and allow “all students the opportunity to participate in co-curricular and extracurricular activities in a manner consistent with their gender identity.”

The policy would also ensure that school district employees receive “professional development” training to better understand the policy and the responsibilities it comes with.

If adopted, this would be the only policy in Osseo Area Schools that denotes “one or more safe staff members that gender-nonconforming students can access if they require additional support during the school day,” as noted during the June 22 meeting.

The policy would also provide “all students with access to facilities that align with students’ gender identity” and would change “student names and pronouns on school district digital systems” if both a student and his parent or guardian send a written request to do so.

Tim Palmatier, general counsel for the district, said during the meeting that the definitions in the draft policy are modeled after “other policies that other school districts have adopted in the state of Minnesota.”

The policy defines gender as “socially constructed roles, activities, behaviors, and attributes that a given society attaches to femininity or masculinity.” It defines gender identity as “a person’s deeply held sense or knowledge of one’s own gender.”

The policy stems from a November 2018 incident in which a transgender student claimed to be violated by staff in the bathroom. The school stated at the time that, “due to data privacy laws, we will not be able to share more information involving the video posted on social media that does not accurately reflect the entire situation.”

A handful of residents and parents provided public comment at the June 22 meeting, both for and against the policy. One resident who opposes the policy said she was transgender for more than 30 years and “it was not a life that was very good for me at all.”

“In fact, I was most suicidal when I was in that life,” she said. “I understand all of the things that go on behind this because, believe me, I used to push for this narrative that’s going forth right now when I was in that lifestyle.”

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Megan Olson

Megan Olson is a 2020 graduate of the University of Minnesota with degrees in political science and history. She works in public affairs in addition to serving on the Legislative Advisory Council for School District 196. She is also on the school board for FIT academy, a charter school in Apple Valley.