Right-wing religious organization targets a Minnesota charter school for attempting to create a gender-inclusive environment
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jill Gaulding, Counsel for Hannah and David Edwards
Co-Founder & Legal Director, Gender Justice
651-789-2090 | 651-757-5268 (cell)
Jennifer Houston, Director, External Affairs, OutFront Minnesota 612-822-0127
Alison Yocom, Co-Chair, Transforming Families MN
612-321-8416 | 612-355-9366 (cell)
January 12, 2016 (Minneapolis, MN) – The Minnesota Family Council (MFC), an organization hostile to LGBTQ equality, is holding an event tonight at Nova Classical Academy, a St. Paul charter public school, in an effort to dissuade Nova’s school board and administration from implementing gender-inclusive practices within the school environment. MFC is opposed by organizations that work with LGBTQ youth and their families, including Gender Justice, OutFront, Transforming Families, and Minnesota Trans Health Coalition. These organizations support Nova—and all schools—in aligning their practices with state and federal anti-discrimination laws, including Minnesota’s recently passed statewide anti-bullying law.
Hannah and David Edwards are the parents of a gender non-conforming 5 yr. old child who attends kindergarten at Nova. When their child faced bullying from other students, they asked Nova, a public charter school, to take steps to ensure a safe, supportive school environment for all students. In response, some parents have organized petition drives, and tonight’s event, to prevent Nova from providing a supportive environment for gender non-conforming children. “We believe the messages being expressed by the Minnesota Family Council do not represent the position of a majority of Nova parents and that their presence on Tuesday will do further damage to the climate of the school community. We look forward to Nova’s school board taking action to demonstrate that they are committed to creating gender-‐inclusive policies and protections for every student who enrolls at their school,” David Edwards said.
The MFC claims any steps taken by the school will “put children at risk.” Yet LGBTQ youth are already at risk in schools. A 2013 study, for example, showed that 75% of transgender students reported being verbally harassed at school in the previous year, and 1 in 3 have been physically assaulted. Numbers for gender non-conforming students are similar; in a 2010 study, 66% reported verbal harassment and 33% reported physical harassment. Rates of depression and suicide among these youth populations are frighteningly high.
Both state and federal laws require schools to reduce these risks by protecting transgender and gender non-conforming youth from discrimination and bullying in schools. The burden of ensuring school compliance with those laws should not fall on the families of bullied students.
Jill Gaulding, Legal Director of Gender Justice, rejects the MFC’s claim of “risk.” “What really ‘puts children at risk’ is not children using the restrooms consistent with their gender identity, but when schools fail to follow laws that protect transgender and gender non-conforming children from discrimination.”
Monica Meyer, Executive Director of OutFront Minnesota, agrees. “A school should be a place where all students, including LGBTQ youth, are able to thrive, a place that is affirming, supportive, and inclusive. It’s a tragedy that we have all these adults targeting youth, sending the message that it’s not okay to be who you are.”
Parents and community members who support inclusive student rights and object to this sort of discrimination against children are encouraged to attend tonight’s event at Nova Classical Academy.
Report on 2013 school climate survey:
Report on 2010 and 2011 studies on the long-term harms of bullying: https://mcclellandinstitute.arizona.edu/sites/mcclellandinstitute.arizona.edu/files/ResearchLink_Vol.%204%20No.%201_Bullying.pdf
Guide for supporting transgender students in K-12 schools:
2015 report on NYC schools’ response to discrimination against transgender and gender-nonconforming students: