Anti-LGBTQ groups have launched a campaign urging their supporters to contact state agencies and demand an end to planned transgender inclusive school policies.

The Minnesota Department of Education’s School Safety and Technical Assistance Center unveiled a draft tool kit for schools at its May 2 meeting. That toolkit provides recommendations to public and charter schools about how to create a safe and inclusive school environments for transgender students.

The Minnesota Family Council and the Minnesota Child Protection League are trying to stop MDE and the safety center from approving the toolkit and releasing it to school districts.

“The priorities of the transgender activists who developed this toolkit do not reflect the priorities of most public school parents, attending students, and not to mention, the thousands of taxpayers who will be forced to fund the printing, distribution and implementation of this toolkit,” wrote John Helmberger, CEO of the Minnesota Family Council in an email last week. “A statewide response from pro-privacy Minnesotans is needed ASAP to prevent approval and distribution of this toolkit to Minnesota public schools.”

The Minnesota Family Council has a long history of anti-LGBTQ activism dating back to the early 1980s when MFC started as the Berean League, a group of conservative Christians that banded together to advocate for laws that criminalize lesbian, gay, and bisexual Minnesotans. In recent years, the group has come under criticism for publishing information about LGBTQ people that is untruthful including claims that “homosexuals” are more likely to be pedophiles, and are more likely to engage in sex with animals. These statements are not only false, but have been historically used to perpetuate violence against LGBTQ people.

The Minnesota Child Protection League also sent an email encouraging its supporters to demand MDE trash the toolkit.

“The MDE is opposing the will of the overwhelming majority of Minnesota parents and taxpayers by forcing this toolkit and this unscientific, radical view of sexuality on our schools,” CPL wrote in an email last week. “CPL is receiving increasing reports from parents, teachers, and students that, when they do not adopt and affirm gender fluid thinking, they are being harassed, bullied, called bigots and haters, and intimidated into conformity.”

CPL is a relatively new organization formed by veteran anti-LGBTQ activists, and has taken the lead on anti-transgender activism in the state.

State Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, a Republican from Glencoe urged his constituents to contact MDE in an email on Friday:

Not only is this is a blatant disregard for the privacy rights and dignity of students; it is also an unprecedented waste of taxpayer resources. Many parents have expressed significant opposition to their children being exposed to what some experts say are harmful and unscientific ideas about gender identity and gender fluidity. These discussions should be left up to parents.

This MDE directive is outrageous and we must do all we can to stop our schools from pushing this harmful and confusing agenda on our impressionable children. Our schools should focus on instructing students in reading, writing, science, and math, not pushing dangerous progressive social agendas. In response, I and 45 other State Representatives along with 21 State Senators have written a letter to Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellious to express our strong opposition to their planned distribution of their “Toolkit” resource for dealing with gender identity issues in schools.

You can make your thoughts known by contacting the Minnesota Department of Education and expressing your opposition to the “Toolkit” resource. The public comment period will end very shortly, and we must make our voices heard.

Meanwhile, on May 10th, conservative Christian lawmakers began collecting signatures on a letter to Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius urging her to scrap the toolkit:

We believe that the Department’s resources would best serve Minnesota’s children in other areas, instead of advancing a progressive social agenda, which many experts consider harmful. Many parents are opposed to their children being exposed to confusing ideas of gender identity and fluidity in the classroom at such young ages. We are concerned about how the messages presented in the “Toolkit” will impact Minnesota’s children, and believe discussions regarding gender identity should be left to parents.

The letter did not state who the “many experts” are that consider transgender-inclusive school policies to be harmful. In fact, most major medical, educational, and social work organizations and research support gender inclusive policies as a way to make schools safe for transgender and gender nonconforming children. The National Association of School Psychologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychiatric Association, American School Counselor Association, and the National PTA have advocated for policies similar to those outlined in the toolkit.

The toolkit contains many of the changes advocates of student safety have been advocating for at local school board meetings. The toolkit gives information to schools on issues such as dress codes, athletic participation, restroom use, pronoun use, and record-keeping.

The School Safety and Technical Assistance Committee hasn’t set a date for final approval of the toolkit, but school safety advocates who attended the May 2 meeting say the Committee will likely take the issue up in June. Minnesotans interested in providing feedback on the toolkit can do so by contacting Craig Wethington, Director of the School Safety and Technical Assistance Center, at craig.wethington@state.mn.us.

Clarification: The original title for this article referred to the toolkit as “guidance.” Josh Collins,
Director of Communications at the Minnesota Department of Education, wrote The Column to let readers know that toolkit is only intended to provide school districts with information: “The toolkit is a collection of resources and best practices for school districts and charter schools on a topic that has generated questions from schools across the state. The toolkit does not serve as guidance, direction, statute or rule; it is intended to provide additional information for districts to consider as they make their own locally-determined policies.”

Here’s a copy of the draft Toolkit:

Download (PDF, 19.07MB)

Here’s the email sent by the Minnesota Family Council:

Download (PDF, 8.23MB)

Here’s the email send by the Minnesota Child Protection League:

Download (PDF, 812KB)

Here’s the email from Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen:

Download (PDF, 414KB)

Here’s the letter from conservative Christian legislators:

Download (PDF, 416KB)

The Column is a community-supported non-profit news, arts, and media organization. We depend on community support to continue the work of solid LGBT-centric journalism. If you like this article, consider visiting Give MN to make a contribution today.
SHARE
Previous articleAll of Minnesota DFL Congressional delegation sponsors Equality Act
Next articleMN House members introduce resolution urging an end to anti-gay persecution in Chechnya
Andy Birkey
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, Vita.mn 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.

LEAVE A REPLY