At the Monday, April 24, meeting of the Anoka-Hennepin School Board, dozens of transgender community members, parents of transgender children, and allies to transgender students demanded that the board adopt a transgender-inclusive policy for one of the state’s largest districts.
Monday’s push for an inclusive policy was the third in the last three months and stems from a parent’s request more than a year ago to create a safe environment for her child. It’s also the latest push in a district that has fought LGBTQ inclusivity since the mid-1990s when the district adopted a policy forbidding positive portrayals of LGBTQ people or issues.
Recently, the district decided to institute a “case-by-case basis” for deciding which restrooms transgender students could use, and have been segregating transgender students’ bathroom use to single occupancy facilities.
“I’m a proud transgender Latina,” Jennifer Soriano told the board. “You might not think about what bathroom are you going to use but for me that’s an every day thing.”
She said that forcing transgender students to use separate facilities singles out those students.
“We are just showing kids that its okay to treat people who are different wrong, in a wrong manner. It’s not okay and I think we can all agree on that,” Soriano said. “I am no different than any other students.”
Alexandra Rozinska told the board to support and nurture transgender students.
“I’ve been living in the school district for over 20 years. I’m a trans feminine woman,” Rozinska told the board. “I personally know the pain and suffering that kids go through when they can’t be accepted for who they are and the bathroom issue is a very personal place of safety. And I know you all love our kids and you want the best for them. So let’s embrace their diversity, support them and nurture them, and give them what they need.”
Students in the district are also engaged on the issue, and three students presented the board with a poster signed by 529 middle school students.
The message from those students was: “We can make a very positive impact by starting off with maing a policy that states that transgender students can use the bathroom that they identify with. We could make a big change.”
Among the other testifiers were Dot Betsler, executive director of Twin Cities Pride, and Rev. Chris McArdle of First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ.
Tammy Aaberg, a mom who made national news fighting for LGBTQ youth in the district after losing a child to suicide, testified as well.
“I sadly find myself in front of you guys again, almost 7 years later. But i’m hoping this time that’s a positive result a lot sooner for these kids,” she said.
Out of the dozens present, two spoke against inclusive policies. Tasha Rose Hodges, a St. Paul resident whose campaign for school board was cut short after outrage over her anti-transgender comments, testified. Emily Zinos, a frequent speaker who is aligned with with anti-LGBTQ group Minnesota Family Council, also spoke.
But, the vast majority of the comments were from people who support an inclusive policy.
Krystin Schuette, one of a half-dozen students that sued the district over a toxic environment for LGBTQ students in 2012, testified.
“I truly had no intention of speaking tonight. However, I sat in the back of the same school where I met my wife 10 years ago and I found myself unable to sit silently.”
She urged the board to adopt a transgender-inclusive policy.
“I continue to struggle with the effects of what happened to me here,” she added.