by Sheila Qualls
The Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District adopted a new transgender student policy that experts say will permit students to change their gender identity at school and allow the district to conceal that information from parents.
According to the new policy, adopted on Nov. 17, “all students have a right to privacy, including the right to keep private one’s transgender or gender expansive status at school.”
The policy explicitly states that “school district personnel shall not disclose information that may reveal a student’s transgender or gender-expansive status to others, including parents and other school personnel, unless legally required to do so or unless the student has authorized such disclosure.”
In short, the new guidelines allow students to “socially transition’ and hide it from parents, according to legal experts. In fact, one teacher in the district said it is already happening. The teacher asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.
The district, however, insisted in a statement to Alpha News that “nothing in the adopted guidelines takes away from parents’ rights to information about their children.”
“In fact, the guidelines encourage staff to work with students and their parents on these types of issues. Parent rights are paramount. However, the guidelines are clear that staff members should not ‘out’ students to parents, revealing their transgender or gender-expansive status, unless legally required to do so or if it’s authorized by the student,” a spokesperson said.
One parents rights activist called these comments “incredibly misleading.”
“It is incredibly misleading for the district to assert that nothing in these newly adopted guidelines takes away from parents’ rights to information about their children when that is exactly what this policy calls for,” said Cristine Trooien, executive director of the Minnesota Parents Alliance.
“It explicitly instructs staff not to disclose any information that may reveal a student’s transgender or gender-expansive status to parents. Parents have rightfully become mistrustful of district leaders who tell them that parental rights are paramount after they have just quickly and quietly adopted a policy that excludes them from conversations about their own children,” she added.
‘Everything is hush-hush’
Although the guidelines are published on the district’s website, district officials said they are not proactively discussing the information with families at this time, according to the teacher who spoke with Alpha News.
However, they will discuss the new practices with families on a case-by-case basis or if parents ask, according to the teacher.
“How would parents know to ask? Everything is hush-hush. Parents need to know,” the teacher said.
The school board briefly mentioned the policy during its two most recent meetings but did not discuss the details.
“All district policies and regulations are presented and approved at regular board meetings, which are posted in accordance with state law, open to the public and shared via livestream on the district’s Youtube channel,” the district spokesperson said.
Trooien believes the policy should have been provided to every parent in the district, “ideally before it was passed, but certainly now.”
“Parents need to know that their students will no longer be afforded the privacy or protection based on biological sex nor will parents be informed about their children ‘socially transitioning’ to an identity other than their sex and assigned name at birth,” she said. “This policy also demands that district employees comply with this policy and affirm student-declared identity or face adverse employment action. It is reprehensible that the district has placed teachers in the impossible position of keeping secrets from parents or losing their job.”
‘Schools must notify parents’
The district may be acting outside its legal authority, according to attorneys with the Upper Midwest Law Center.
“Schools must notify parents of any supposed decision by their minor children to change their names or gender identity, rather than implement or enable that decision, just as institutions are required to notify parents if the student wanted to get married, emigrate, or join the military,” said Doug Seaton, president of the UMLC.
“What is even more concerning, many parents who have contacted the Upper Midwest Law Center about similar policies have reported that teachers, counselors and administrators at a number of school districts are encouraging and soliciting these ‘transitions,’ rather than simply responding to students,” he added.
Parents should immediately and politely tell the school district in writing — keeping hard and electronic copies — that the policies and practices are an illegal interference in parental rights, Seaton said.
“Tell them you do not consent to any ‘transition’ steps the school is facilitating and that you intend to hold them responsible for any consequences. Any further actions parents would wish to take would depend on such first steps, and sometimes this alone will achieve a good result,” he said.
What’s in the guidelines?
“Transgender and gender-expansive students have the right to discuss and express their gender identity and expression openly and to decide when, how, and with whom to share private information, as well as to determine what information will be shared,” the guidelines state.
Other items in the guidelines include:
- Allowing students to change their names and pronouns
- Allowing students to dress and use bathrooms based on their gender identity
- Allowing students to participate in sports based on their gender identity
- Formally reprimanding teachers for “consistently referring to the student by a name or pronoun that does not correspond with the student’s gender identity”
According to the teacher who spoke with Alpha News, transgender children already receive “special privileges” that other students don’t.
“Trans kids can currently use whichever bathroom they choose,” the teacher said. “Trans students can express themselves in any way they want. They’re allowed to wear things other students wouldn’t be allowed to wear. One of my students changed their pronouns and dresses in an extremely distracting, really inappropriate way.”
The teacher said the district has radically changed in the last two years while standardized test scores have declined.
“A lot of things have happened in our district that people are just not happy with. What we’re doing with these transgender practices is going to be the straw that breaks families’ backs,” the teacher continued.
The district spokesperson said the guidelines don’t change any dress codes and prohibit “inappropriate behavior regardless of a student’s gender.”
“The guidelines express an expectation that staff will treat all students with respect, including addressing them using the student’s preferred name and pronouns,” he said. “That’s true whether a student is transgender or not.”
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Sheila Qualls is an award-winning journalist and former civilian editor of an Army newspaper. Prior to joining Alpha News, she was a Christian Marriage and Family columnist at Patheos.com and a personal coach. Her work has been published in The Upper Room, the MOPS blog, Grown and Flown, and The Christian Post. She speaks nationally on issues involving faith and family.
Photo “Board of Education Regular Meeting – Nov. 10, 2022” by Burnsville-Eagan-Savage ISD 191.