Count this as a win for trans kids in Minnesota: On July 19, the Department of Education in Minnesota approved a “toolkit” for transgender students at public schools. The toolkit provides information to teachers and administrators about gender identity and such issues as pronoun usage and inclusive language, as well as advice on how to create a supportive school environment for transgender and gender non-conforming students.
At a meeting last week attended by more than 200 supporters and opponents of the measure, the Minnesota Department of Education’s School Safety Technical Assistance Council voted in favor of a set of guidelines called, “A Toolkit for Ensuring Safe and Supportive Schools for Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Student.” The document (which is designed as a resource for information and guidance, not a binding set of rules) will be given to Minnesota public and charter schools, grades K through 12.
A draft of the toolkit explains that the document was created in response to recent requests from school staff, families, and students for advice about “how to ensure safe, supportive and inclusive environments for all students, including transgender and gender nonconforming students.” The toolkit advises teachers and administrators to avoid making assumptions about students’ gender identities, and to instead ask students for their preferred names and pronouns. Furthermore, students in transition should be able to alter their names and gender listed in their records without legal documentation.
The guide further suggests that teachers avoid language that reinforces the gender binary (like “boys and girls”) and instead use gender-neutral terms like “students” and “scholars.” It also explicitly states that trans students should be able to use the restrooms of their choice.
The toolkit points out why it is so important that transgender and gender nonconforming kids and teens feel supported at school: These students often experience intense bullying and harassment. According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey Report, 77 percent of trans and gender nonconforming students, grades K— 12, experience harassment or mistreatment due to their gender identity and expression. These students also experience unusually high rates of attempted suicide and suicidal thoughts. It’s crucial that these kids and teens be able to find support from the people around them. Every kid deserves to learn and grow in an environment where they feel comfortable, safe, and able to be themselves.