Rochester counselor blows whistle on trans ‘guidelines’ that district was ‘trying to hide’

Rochester Public Schools student counselor Christina Barton said she’s willing to stand up for the truth, "even if it comes at a cost."  

Christina Barton has taken her fight public, speaking out at a recent school board meeting and listening session. (Alpha News)

A Rochester Public Schools student counselor is blowing the whistle on the district’s “administrative guidelines” for supporting “transgender and gender-expansive students,” which she says were implemented without the public’s knowledge.

Christina Barton has taken her fight public, speaking out at a recent school board meeting and listening session.

“I had consulted with RPS personnel who had warned me against making this guideline public and that there is a risk of job retaliation up to disciplinary action or termination if I speak to the board or am noncompliant regarding these guidelines. I have also spoken to other staff who are also afraid to speak up for the same reason,” Barton said at a school board meeting last month.

At the meeting, she pointed to a section of the document which states that parents will be provided with “information about whether [their] child is transgender” only if they request it.

“So how would a parent know to request such information if they aren’t aware that their child is struggling with gender dysphoria? How would a parent be able to care for and support their student if the school never reached out to them?” Barton said.

Barton, who said she’s willing to stand up for the truth “even if it comes at a cost,” shared her story this week on Liz Collin Reports.

She has been a school counselor at an elementary school in the district for the last few years, but what happened at a staff meeting earlier this school year didn’t sit well with her.

“On Feb. 14 of this year, we had a staff meeting, as we do every month. We had a staff member present about a topic that was very controversial entitled ‘pronouns.’ She asked that we prayerfully consider using them in the classroom and students expressing themselves with those pronouns and asked us to watch a video about pronouns where a nonbinary lady basically educated us on what pronouns were and different types of pronouns and why they’re really important to use in gender-affirming care,” Barton explained.

That’s when Barton learned about Superintendent Kent Pekel’s “guidelines” that were put in place in September 2023 and will remain in effect until the school board “develops and approves a policy and/or procedures to support transgender and gender-expansive students.”

Barton said that when she brought up the guidelines with a school board member, that board member “seemed surprised and didn’t know how to respond” when Barton asked when the board may vote on a formal policy.

“That rose a red flag to me that this was something that they are trying to hide from the public and that they’re going to possibly just slip it right in without the feedback from the community and without informing parents,” Barton said.

The guidelines 

The guidelines detail how students must be referred to by their preferred name and pronouns and allowed access to bathrooms and sporting activities in accordance with their gender identity.

District staff who fail to comply with the guidelines, such as by refusing to use a student’s preferred pronouns, “may be subject to disciplinary actions, up to and including termination.”

Rochester Superintendent Kent Pekel speaks at an April 9 school board meeting. (Rochester Public Schools/YouTube)

A section on “parent access to information” stipulates that parents will be provided with information about whether their child is “transgender or whether their child has asked to use a name, pronouns, restrooms, or locker rooms based on the child’s gender identity rather than sex assigned at birth” only if they request such information.

“We are very clear,” Superintendent Pekel told the Rochester Post Bulletin last month. “If we are in possession of this information and a parent or guardian wants to know, we provide that information.”

Barton, however, believes the district should proactively work with parents of gender-dysphoric children.

“The fact that parents don’t know they can’t proactively protect their children from something that could potentially happen during one of these gender-affirming activities or even know about the pronouns that are being asked about during the school year — there’s a lot of deception that’s happening and parents can’t request those records if they don’t even know that it exists,” Barton said.

“That is primarily the reason why I’m bringing this forward because in our district we talk about family engagement, we talk about transparency and how important that is, but yet they’re unwilling to do that with this specific guideline.”

The Rochester district sent Alpha News a statement when we inquired about the September guidance. It reads:

“The guidance was developed and shared with principals to provide them with information on settled legal precedents and how school district policy is to be implemented in our schools today regarding issues of gender identity.”

The subject spilled over into the most recent Rochester school board meeting last week where people spoke out for and against the guidelines. A local group called Strengthen Rochester Schools has launched a petition calling for “greater parental and community engagement” on the issue.

“RPS did not engage with the parents while creating such a serious guide,” the petition says. “The guidelines empower school staff to keep concerning information such as gender dysphoria or gender transitioning activity from parents unless a parent asks. Parents are unlikely to ask if they do not know their child is experiencing such things.”

Barton said the threat of disciplinary action in the guidelines has only motivated her to speak up even more.

“That is what we need in this country is to stand up for what is truth, what is right. Even if there are major ramifications, as this guideline clearly says, that if staff are held in noncompliance, we will face disciplinary action up to termination,” she said.

“That actually gives me the opposite feeling, instead of being muzzled and intimidated and being bullied into being censored, it makes me want to stand up even more. Their lack of response makes me question what their underlying motive is. If someone else isn’t going to speak up, then I will speak up on behalf of our parents, on behalf of our staff, and on behalf of our students, so that way they can have a fair shot to feel empowered and exercise those constitutional rights that they have.

“Parents have a right to be that guiding voice in a child’s life and to be shoved to the side and not be informed of the guidelines or the curricula that’s happening or to consent to it or not even have the opportunity to opt out is very concerning.”



Liz Collin

Liz Collin has been a truth-teller for 20 years as a multi-Emmy-Award-winning reporter and anchor. Liz is a Worthington, Minnesota native who lives in the suburbs with her husband, son and loyal lab.