Amy Krupinski, Resident Blogger (’14, William Mitchell College of Law)
Recently, the St. Paul Board of Education adopted a new policy that allows transgender students to use the restroom and locker room facilities that match their gender identity. Also, the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) implemented a policy allowing students to join teams that matched their gender identity. This news announcement was visible only if you were really looking for it. And it actually wasn’t even really news until the Minnesota House acted in response to it. Although most people think these are laudable policies, the Republican-controlled House introduced contrary legislation that would require that transgender students use restroom and locker room facilities that match their biological gender. In addition, this legislation would eliminate the MSHSL policy regarding which teams students can join.
This bill has already been shelved by the Senate. However, the mere fact that it exists as a countermeasure to these reforms is enough to spark a statewide debate, and it has drawn unwanted attention to these polices. Whereas the St. Paul school board and MSHSL’s primary concerns are ensuring the safety and wellbeing of its students, this bill served only to perpetuate misunderstandings and fear. Clearly, the school board and MSHSL would have benefitted from the quiet implementation of their inclusive policies; the House called attention to them and tried to reverse them on a statewide level (to say nothing about local control issues). To me, it seems like a political move designed to distress voters and enflame the passions and worries of parents.
When I heard about these policies on Minnesota Public Radio one morning I immediately thought “wow, good for them”. Then I got to work. I work in a pretty small, conservative town in out-state Minnesota (aka not the metro), and when I got to work I got a question from a co-worker who had heard the same story. He was wondering what this might mean for each school, students, and parents. He wondered if this meant that schools were supposed to let boys and girls change together in the same locker room. Hearing someone distilling it down to this simplistic level is very distressing. This simple question leads to a very complicated explanation of gender politics. Its nuances are more than can be explained in a blog post with a word limit. However, I will say that I think I handled the explanation well to my coworker, and I am glad for the opportunities to provide some rational input into a controversial topic. Protecting individual students from bullying from their peers, from being made to feel uncomfortable while at school, or from being excluded or singled out should be a community’s primary concern.