Religious right targets St. Paul charter school over transgender inclusive policies



Minnesota’s religious right has set its sights on a small public charter school in St. Paul that is working to create a welcoming environment for a gender nonconforming student. Nova Classical Academy, charted by the Friends of Education which sponsors a dozen or so charter schools, enrolled a gender nonconforming student in fall 2015 and made efforts to welcome the student. Those efforts are now under attack by the Minnesota Child Protection League, the Minnesota Family Council, and AM 980 radio host Paul Ridgeway.

In mid-December, the school made a decision to allow students to wear the school uniform that matches their gender identity, and has instituted some training about gender identity.

A handful of the school’s parents complained that a book, “My Princess Boy,” was suggested reading. A petition was started to encourage the school board to allow the book — or one like it — to be part of curriculum.

“Obviously most know this is about my child,” Hannah Edwards wrote in support of the petition. “However it is for all Nova students and will help Nova to become an even better place. Thank you to all who have supported.”

Dave Edwards also explained the petition:

While we are disappointed that a petition like this would be necessary, our family is extremely moved by this show of support. Our son, and all children, should be welcomed and accepted for who they are at a public school. These kind and welcoming comments help alleviate some of the pain caused by the hurtful comments made at last Monday’s “Listening Session”. It is nice to know we have support from other families in the Nova community! We absolutely support the reading of “My Princess Boy” or any other book that educates students about steps they can take to maintain a gender inclusive environment at Nova.

Conservative parents launched a petition of their own, opposing gender-inclusive facilities at the school. Here’s a sampling of what those parents wrote:

Ermias Melka of St. Paul: Morally wrong. My tradition and culture doesn’t allow this.

Debra L. Kaczmarek of Rosemount: As godmother of a Nova graduate, I have–perhaps in error, it now seems–encouraged parents to consider Nova. What tragic irresponsibility to use children in order to advance a political agenda!

John Fischer of Inver Grove Heights: there is a great difference between male and female, regardless of what your government and liberal nut jobs tell you….

Tom Lynn of St Paul wrote: I can’t imagine a justifiable reason why a male student or faculty member needs to expose himself to my daughters

Trudie Clancy of Dresser: I have two grandchildren at Nova, and I object to this policy being imposed on them. I feel sorry for the child who is so confused but it is not fair to make the whole school have to deal with this issue as if it is perfectly normal behavior to switch genders. Some kids may be traumatized by having something so strange and unfamiliar happening around them.

Paula Rothstein of St. Paul: First, it was about the reading of a book to stop bullying, now one family is demanding full implementation of a radical policy based on gender neutrality that is nothing short of a political agenda. I have two children at Nova. One BOY and one GIRL.

In a radio appearance on Tuesday, MNCPL’s Julie Quist and Michele Lentz spoke with host Paul Ridgeway about Nova Classical Academy.

“What happened here was that there was a child that came in as a kindergarten student and the parents said that he was thought he was a girl and should be treated as a girl and that perhaps he wasn’t being treated as fully as he should be as a girl,” Quist said. “And so they were demanding that this child — that all of the kindergarten through 5th graders be given curriculum that would teach the students that it’s perfectly normal to think you are a girl if you are a boy.”

She continued, “They used this 2014 new bullying bill as their excuse to say, ‘no you must use this My Princess Boy’ — was one of the books that they wanted to have every student read and they made these very extreme demands and so that was where the conflict was set up.”

She explained why she thought conservative Christian parents at the school we so upset:

They are concerned about their own children of course and teaching what’s right and true not teaching something that’s false and so that’s basically what happened there but we would like people to know that this kind of a thing is targeted at you know places various places in the state in different schools and We really feel like they are targeting the charter schools right now because they are a little more independent and ultimately you know we really think that their target is going to be christian schools as well.

Host Paul Ridgeway added, “Let me tell you something folks: your child will be or already has been pushed this down their throat and will continued to be pushed down their throat because this is the new change folks. This is what’s coming. For those of you — I hate to say this but — voted for the Obama and all the people in administration nationally. And liberals — I apologize folks — but this is what you’re getting.

The Child Protection League claims — without any substantiation — that Nova Classical Academy was targeted by LGBT activists, not that the parents simply chose the school as the best fit for their child. In an email in late November, the group wrote:

A St. Paul public school Special Ed teacher enrolled his kindergarten son at Nova, and then insisted his son wanted to be a girl. The teacher and father of the young boy enlisted the support of OutFront MN and a St. Paul gender radical litigation group called Gender Justice in what appeared to be a calculated and carefully orchestrated plan.

In a Dec. 18 email, the group wrote:

After a gender confused kindergarten boy was enrolled at Nova Classical Academy in St. Paul, the school began teaching all other K-5th graders—not kindness and respect toward others with whom they disagree—but rather, that Gender Dysphoria is normal and natural. The unfortunate child, seriously confused, is not being helped!

His own mother recounts him saying, “I am a boy, but I like girl things.” Sometimes, she says, he claims to be a boy and sometimes a girl—about half and half! She will “follow his lead” on what pronouns people should use when addressing him. She is committed to whatever makes him “feel good.”

Seriously, is feeling good the ultimate standard now?

Our schools are teaching children to ignore biology and accept feelings as ultimate fact. This is putting all our kids in danger!

The MNCPL is also distributing a letter from the American College of Pediatricians, a deceptively named organization that is made up of a small number of anti-LGBT conservative Christian professionals and isn’t affiliated with the much larger American Academy of Pediatricians.

ACP president Michelle Cretella wrote, in part:

I write on behalf of a group of parents concerned about policy changes that may be adopted by Nova Classical Academy on behalf of a male kindergarten student who is gender non-conforming. My understanding is that in response to these developments, the administration and several teachers are pushing to teach gender fluidity to children as young as 5 years old. As President of the American College of Pediatricians, I encourage you to enact policies that preserve the optimal well-being for all students. This will require upholding anti-bullying policies while simultaneously ensuring bodily privacy and parental rights for all students.

Clearly, it is of vital importance to avoid gender fluid curricula and policies for the sake of the gender confused student. There are also significant reasons to avoid them for the sake of his or her peers. First and foremost, adopting gender fluid teachings and policies will challenge all students’ gender identity development and also cause anxiety regarding privacy protection such as in restrooms and locker rooms.

It is both in keeping with this spirit of respectfulness and imperative for the optimal health of all students, to avoid all curricula,books and other media, and policies, that promote gender fluid ideology. This includes maintaining restrooms and other private spaces that are segregated according to one’s biological sex.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Family Council, the state’s oldest anti-LGBT group is holding a talk called Title IX and Gender Identity at the gymnasium of Nova Classical Academy on Tuesday, Jan. 12 from 6:30 to 8:30pm. In an email on Wednesday promoting the event, the group wrote:

Now it seems the school is being pressured to include political agendas in its pedagogy. Activist groups like OutFront Minnesota (our state’s largest LGBT organization) and Gender Justice, along with political pressure from the Obama Administration, are behind the push at Nova Classical Academy to see St. Paul Public Schools’ radical transgender policy adopted at Nova.

The transgender policy for St. Paul Public Schools is so radical that it requires schools to permit boys and girls to disrobe and bathroom together, and ensures full compliance with Minnesota State High School League’s transgender athlete policy that permits biological boys to participate on girls’ sports teams.

The following sources were used for this report:

AM 980 KKMS interview:

Nov. 24 email from MNCPL:
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Dec. 18 email from MNCPL:
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Letter from ACP:
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Jan. 6 email from MFC:
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Andy Birkey has written for a number of Minnesota and national publications. He founded Eleventh Avenue South which ran from 2002-2011, wrote for the Minnesota Independent from 2006-2011, the American Independent from 2010-2013. His writing has appeared in The Advocate, The Star Tribune, The Huffington Post, Salon, Cagle News Service, Twin Cities Daily Planet, TheUptake, and much more. His writing on LGBT issues, the religious right and social justice has won awards including Best Beat Reporting by the Online News Association, Best Series by the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and an honorable mention by the Sex-Positive Journalism awards.


  1. I am a faith leader at a Twin Cities church, a mother of four, a future minister, and a Christian. I am disappointed that this group is targeting a school because they adopted a policy that welcomes and nurtures all students. I hope the leaders of Nova Classical Academy know that not all people or all Christians support discrimination.

  2. […] Religious right targets St. Paul charter school over transgender inclusive … Those efforts are now under attack by the Minnesota Child Protection League, the Minnesota Family Council. AM 980 radio host Paul Ridgeway. &#8230. They're concerned about their own children of course and teaching what's right and true not teaching … Read more on […]

  3. Federal law (Title IX enacted in 1972) and the Civil Rights Act if 1964 are applicable here. In particular, the US Department Education has ruled that all schools must grant students access to the facilities that correspond to their gender (not their sex). (BTW, OSHA has issued a similar directive for the workplace. Employers must grant employees access to the facilities that correspond to their gender identity.)

    It’s also worth noting that a number of states have enacted similar laws that specifically grant individuals access to the facilities that correspond to their gender and some 250 municipalities have done so as well. (I’m sure a lot of people read about the situation in Houston where such a bill was repealed via referendum – that makes Houston the only major city in Texas without such a law.) And of course there are a lot of school districts that have adopted similar policies.

  4. Ermias Melka of St. Paul: Morally wrong. My tradition and culture doesn’t allow this.

    She exemplifies many who are not, yet call themselves Christian’s. Christ’s main teaching was on LOVE, as in Love your Neighbour as yourself. Knowledgeable people know that Transgender is a Birth Anomaly and happens in the early weeks of gestation as a result of mainly hormones and other effects. It has been studied over 30 ++ years across the world and that is their conclusions. This is physically documented that Transgender brains match the opposite gender assigned at birth.
    FYI : Sex is between your legs, Gender is between your Ears.
    This fallacy that there are two Genders is because the Catholic church ridicules and insults Transgender people with documented Mis-information. These people should give thought to their actions as they are the part of society that causes many to commit suicide by their indifference. Suicide rate is ten times Cis population at 4% Trans at 44%. Consider this:

    Robert Lofgren
    If you refuse to listen to the Voice of the Transgender community, and instead choose to Speak out of disdain and Ignorance, be assured that what you are saying is Killing Transgender people. To you, the issue may seem clear-cut….but it dosen’t work in real Lives.
    You are Complicit in their Deaths.

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