MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The debate over how schools should handle transgender students got heated Wednesday afternoon. The Minnesota Department of Education created guidelines for the state’s K-12 public schools.
On Wednesday, supporters and opponents of a proposed “transgender tool kit” showed up at a meeting to share their opinions, and each side has strong views.
The issue of finding the best way to interact with transgender students is so sensitive that even a discussion about it triggers high emotion — especially among the students themselves.
“The time I cry about the most are the times the teacher didn’t understand why my name was so important, why my pronouns were important, why it was important for me to feel safe in school,” one transgender student said in the meeting’s public comment period.
More than 200 people came to a meeting at the Minnesota Department of Education.
“The Minnesota Department of Education has put together a tool kit that many families — moms, dads, students — are concerned threatens the bodily privacy of young men and women in schools by allowing mixed sex access into women’s and men’s-only spaces like locker rooms,” Stephani Liesmaki of the Minnesota Family Council said.
Others believe this is step in the right direction to help prevent bullying.
“Transgender and gender-nonconforming students are really struggling in Minnesota, and we have evidence and data that helps us with that information,” Esme Rodriguez of UpFront Minnesota said.
David Edwards is a parent of a transgender child in elementary school.
“Teachers are usually pretty great and kids are great too,” he said. “But when they don’t know what to do when dealing with a student like this, some kind of scary things start to happen.”
Department of Education leaders say the document is a resource, not a set of required policies for school districts.
Education leaders voted to approve the guidelines Wednesday evening, so it will be distributed to school districts and charter schools statewide.