MPS reaffirms support for transgender students and staff

Minneapolis Public Schools

Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Ed Graff reaffirmed the district’s support for transgender students and staff on Thursday, a day after the Trump administration rolled back federal protections for transgender students.

“Every student has the right to a safe and welcoming education,” Graff said in the statement. “Minneapolis Public Schools supports our transgender students, families and staff. We know diversity is a key strength of our educational community. MPS will continue to provide welcoming and affirming learning environments, and our protections for transgender students and staff – whom we are proud to support – will remain the same today as they were yesterday.”

The Trump administration on Wednesday lifted Obama-era guidelines that allowed transgender students to use school bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identities, the Associated Press reported. States and school districts will be able to interpret federal anti-discrimination law and determine whether students should have access to restrooms in accordance with their expressed gender identity and not just their biological sex.

MPS policy calls for creating an all-gender option for facilities and allowing students to self-select to the group in which they would feel most comfortable.

“In any permissible grouping by gender, students shall have the option to self-select into the group of their gender identity or expression where such gender identity or expression is the consistent identity or expression that they use at school,” district policy says.

District policy also calls for referring to all students and staff by their preferred names and gender pronouns.

Gov. Mark Dayton said in a statement Thursday that he strongly disagrees with the Trump administration’s decision on revoking the protections.

“This is not a ‘States’ Rights Issue;’” he said in the statement. “It is a Human Rights Issue. And it should be a Constitutionally-protected right, if the long-stated purpose of the United States Constitution is to protect a minority of people from oppression by some, who are in the majority.”

According to Dayton’s legal counsel, Minnesota statutes do not contain explicit provisions that address what bathrooms transgender students should be able to use in schools, Dayton said in the statement. He noted that the Minnesota Supreme Court has previously held in the employment context that the Minnesota Human Rights Act “neither requires nor prohibits restroom designation according to self-image or gender or according to biological gender.”

“Accordingly, it would appear that each Minnesota school district has the authority, and the responsibility, to develop its own guidelines for which bathrooms transgender students should be allowed to use in their schools,” Dayton said in the statement.

He added that Trump’s pronouncement does not affect the protections provided under Minnesota’s Human Rights Act and the Safe and Supportive Schools Act, which prohibit the bullying of transgender students and all other students.

“Schools must still ensure that transgender students are provided with safe environments in which to learn, and not harassed,” Dayton said.

He said he strongly encourages school board members to adhere to the directives established by the Obama administration. He said Minnesota school districts should look carefully at the results of the 2016 Minnesota Student Survey, which says transgender students are “decidedly less like to feel safe in our schools, and that they are subject to greater discrimination, harassment, and bullying, despite Minnesota’s statutes.” According to the survey, more than half of all transgender students and lesbian and gay students in Minnesota have attempted suicide, Dayton said.

“These are vulnerable people with very challenging life circumstances,” he said. “They deserve our compassion and our support – not our attacks and demonization.”