Minnesota Approves Distribution of ‘Transgender Toolkit’ to Teachers
The toolkit is intended to be a resource for teachers and administrators to address the needs of transgender or gender-noncomforming students.
The Minnesota Department of Education has approved the distribution of toolkits to its public and charter schools teachers that support the rights of transgender and gender-nonconforming students.
The toolkit, titled “A Toolkit for Ensuring Safe and Supportive Schools for Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming Students”, includes 11 pages of guidelines to creating an inclusive environment for transgender and gender-nonconforming students, according to NBC News.
Dissemination of the toolkit was approved Wednesday by the School Safety Technical Assistance Council. The meeting was attended by over 200 supporters and opponents, reports Bustle.com.
“Transgender and gender-nonconforming students face harassment, bullying and feel unsafe at alarmingly high rates,” says Brenda Cassellius, Minnesota’s Education Commissioner. “The resources in this toolkit can help districts create a welcoming, safe and supportive environments for all students to learn.”
Charlene Briner, Minnesota’s DOE deputy commissioner, says the toolkit is meant to be a best practices manual for teachers and administrators to deal with topics that may be uncomfortable for some; its use is not mandated.
Transgender Toolkit Guidelines
One of the guidelines recommends the use of proper pronouns and preferred names. It suggests that teachers use the words “students” or “scholars” instead of “boys and girls”.
“When students are referred to by the wrong pronoun by peers or school staff, students may feel intimidated, threatened, harassed or bullied,” the toolkit states. “School staff can ensure a more respectful environment for all students when efforts are made to correct the misuse of pronouns, as well as names, in student records.”
It also outlines the controversial matter of access to restrooms and locker rooms that correlate with a child’s gender identity. The toolkit suggests that schools have a single-user restroom for any students who don’t want to share a bathroom with transgender of gender-nonconforming students.
Supporters and Opponents
Kevin Lindsey, commissioner of Minnesota’s Department of Human Rights, supports the dissemination of the toolkits, anticipating it will stimulate community engagement and support of all students.
“Schools that want to develop policies for transgender and gender-nonconforming students now have a resource to work with their local stakeholders to create safe learning environments for all students free from discrimination and harassment,” says Lindsey.
Stephanie Liesmaki, communications director for the Minnesota Family Council, disagrees with Lindsey, asserting that the toolkit makes broad-sweeping recommendations and threatens parental rights and bodily privacy.
“Predominantly, the toolkit considers only the perspective of gender-nonconforming students, and dismisses and ignores concerns of other students and parents, and includes veiled threats,” says Liesmaki.
Another suggestion in the tool kit is that teachers to work closely with parents to address the individualized needs of students who are transitioning. It emphasizes the importance of not overstepping boundaries, declaring “Students and their families make their own decisions about what the student needs during transition as every student’s transition is unique.”
2015 U.S. Transgender Survey Report
The toolkit also provides statistics from the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey Report, which includes data from experiences of K-12 students who were out as transgender or believed their peers thought they were transgender.
The survey found that 77 percent of students experienced some form of mistreatment. This statistic was broken down further, finding that:
- 54 percent have experienced verbal harassment
- 52 percent were not allowed to dress in a way that fit their gender identity or expression
- 36 percent were disciplined for fighting back against bullies
- 24 percent were physically attacked
- 17 percent left a school because of mistreatment
- 13 percent were sexually assaulted
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