The New London-Spicer School District in west-central Minnesota, is considering the implementation of a gender-inclusive policy. The Grand Forks Herald spoke with leaders at the school who say the policy is important to increasing safety for LGBTQ students:
Superintendent Paul Carlson said it’s important to take time to listen to community concerns, take feedback and “educate the community” about transgender students.
He said a second reading would not happen for at least another month.
But he said given the high rate of suicide among students struggling with gender issues, schools must take action.
“To say we shouldn’t have a policy like this is really not an option,” Carlson said. “Some people would feel that, but it’s really not an option.”
“We’ll continue to do what’s right for all of our students,” Carlson said. “We’ve been doing a good job of that.”
Carlson said it’s important to be “respectful” and that NLS staff sends the message every day to students “to be kind to each other.”
The district has already conducted staff trainings with the Minnesota Department of Education, OutFront Minnesota, and Transforming Families. The groups met in New London-Spicer in mid-February to help staff understand the needs of transgender and gender nonconforming students.
A draft policy has been created. That policy reads, in part:
VI. Sports and Physical Education
Transgender and gender nonconforming students are to be provided the same opportunities to participate in physical education as are all other students. Generally, students should be permitted to participate in physical education and sports in accordance with the student’s gender identity that is consistently asserted at school. Participation in competitive athletic activities and contact sports will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
VII. Restroom and Locker Room Accessibility
The school district aims to support transgender and gender nonconforming students while also ensuring the safety and comfort of all students. The use of restrooms and locker rooms by transgender and gender nonconforming students requires schools to consider numerous factors, including, but not limited to: the student’s preference; protecting student privacy; maximizing social integration of the student; minimizing stigmatization of the student; ensuring equal opportunity to participate; the student’s age; and protecting the safety of the students involved.
A student who expresses a need or desire for increased privacy should be provided with reasonable alternative arrangements. Reasonable alternative arrangements may include the use of a private area, or a separate changing schedule, or use of a single stall restroom. Any alternative arrangement should be provided in a way that protects the student’s ability to keep his or her status confidential.
A student should not be required to use a locker room or restroom that conflicts with the student’s gender identity.
VIII. Gender Segregation in Other Areas
As a general rule, in any other circumstances where students are separated by gender in school activities (i.e. overnight field trips), students should be permitted to participate in accordance with their gender identity consistently asserted at school. Activities that may involve the need for accommodations to address student privacy concerns will be addressed on a case-by-case basis considering the factors set forth above.
The Minnesota Child Protection League, an anti-LGBTQ group that opposes policies aimed at supporting transgender students, posted a statement on Facebook against the proposed policy:
Here’s what’s happening near Willmar MN. It’s coming next to your school district. One point this writer missed is that the school district proposes to write into policy that sex is “assigned” at birth. This is a radical undermining of biological fact. Sex is not assigned. It is recognized by biology. What utter and shocking fantasy are we willing to teach our children! Speak up, dear friends.
Here’s the full draft policy: