Back to School with MN’s New Transgender Toolkit

Minnesota has new guidelines that aim to help gender-diverse and transgender students.

As the new school year approaches, schools and students are trying to make sense of the new transgender toolkit released last week by the Minnesota Department of Education. The guidelines have drawn fire from opponents who claim they threaten parental rights and student privacy, while others say they’re needed to help protect transgender students from bullies.

Gary Amoroso, executive director of the Minnesota School Administrators Association, said the scope and purpose of the guidelines isn’t well understood, but what’s important is the relationships families build with schools, especially on sensitive issues.

“The toolkit is not something that districts are required to use, and it’s not something that a district must either choose to opt into or opt out of,” he said. “It is simply a resource that’s available.”

Among the new guidelines: are the suggestions that school officials not assume the gender identity of a student and not separate classes into boy and girl groups. State education officials say the toolkit is a response to schools’ requests for guidance in dealing with the growing number of transgender students.

LGBTQ advocates such as Eva Wood, anti-violence program director for OutFront Minnesota, pushed hard for the guidelines.

“We have an obligation to create safe and welcoming learning environments for them, so I think it absolutely helps, but it doesn’t finish the goal,” she said. “The schools where trans kids tend to have more trouble are probably going to be the same schools that choose not to adopt it.”

According to the most recent Minnesota Student Survey, about 2.5 percent – or more than 20,000 high school students statewide – identify as transgender or gender diverse.

The toolkit is online at education.state.mn.us.

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