Welcoming and inclusive schools play a crucial role in helping all students thrive, especially LGBTQ+ and other marginalized youth. The proposed amendments to teacher licensure requirements build on existing standards designed to foster positive learning environments for all students. Unfortunately, opponents of LGBTQ+ inclusion have been flooding the open comments with harmful rhetoric in an effort to stop these important amendments.
Join OutFront in expressing your support for these amendments — specifically:
- Cultural competency (8710.0310) - “"Cultural competency training" means a training program that promotes self-reflection and discussion including but not limited to all of the following topics: racial, cultural, and socioeconomic groups; American Indian and Alaskan native students; religion; systemic racism; gender identity, including transgender students; sexual orientation; language diversity; and individuals with disabilities and mental health concerns.”
- Effective practices (8710.2000) - “The teacher fosters an environment that ensures student identities such as race/ethnicity, national origin, language, sex and gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical/developmental/emotional ability, socioeconomic class, and religious beliefs are historically and socially contextualized, affirmed, and incorporated into a learning environment where students are empowered to learn and contribute as their whole selves.” “The teacher understands and supports students as they recognize and process dehumanizing biases, discrimination, prejudices, and structural inequities.”
- Requirements for teachers of parent and family education (8710.3100) - “The candidate must understand child development: [including] gender identity and sexuality development.”
You can submit a public comment and add your voice in support until September 13 at 4:30 p.m.
Honorable Judge James Mortenson and members of the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board,
We write in support of proposed amendments to Minnesota Rules, chapter 8710.
The proposed amendments laying out standards for cultural competency (8710.0310), effective practice (8710.2000), and specific requirements for teachers of parent and family education (8710.3100) represent an important step in continuing to build welcoming and supportive environments for students across our state; and we strongly encourage the adoption of this proposed language.
OutFront Minnesota is the state’s largest LGBTQ+ advocacy organization with a 35 year history of advancing equity. Our organization’s work led to the inclusion of protections for sexual orientation and gender identity under the Minnesota Human Rights Act and in the passage of the Safe and Supportive Schools Act — both make clear commitments to providing protections and support for LGBTQ+ and other marginalized youth in our schools.
Existing Minnesota teacher licensure standards provide a healthy starting point for these proposed changes; notably (8710.2000) that outlines the need to recognize and address “biases, discrimination, prejudices, and institutional and personal racism and sexism” to understand “cultural and community diversity” and to “develop a learning community in which individual differences are respected.” We applaud the Board’s recommendations to further clarify and expand the ways these competencies and supports are necessary to develop effective teachers, foster welcoming classrooms, and ultimately create better outcomes for our state’s K-12 students.
Data from the 2019 Minnesota Student Survey reveals that 20% of 11th grade students across the state identify as something other than heterosexual; and 2% identify as transgender or are unsure about their gender identity. LGBTQ+ youth still face heightened levels of discrimination and violence in our state, and despite legal protections many still face barriers to full inclusion in school environments. While teacher licensure requirements are only one piece of addressing these challenges, we know that educators play a crucial role in fostering inclusive environments. And as research like the Trevor Project’s 2022 Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health makes clear, safe and welcoming schools play a critical role in the success and well-being of LGBTQ+ youth.
Providing training requirements for teachers on “racial, cultural, and socioeconomic groups; American Indian and Alaskan native students; religion; systemic racism; gender identity, including transgender students; sexual orientation; language diversity; and individuals with disabilities and mental health concerns” as outlined in 8710.0310 buildson the existing standards that support diverse learners. Specific language around historically marginalized communities and protected classes is an important step in acknowledging the need to address these populations with direct training and understanding.
We are heartened to see the depth of language in 8710.2000 on the importance of “affirming the validity of students' backgrounds and identities,” guidance for inclusion of “resources written and developed by traditionally marginalized voices,” fostering “opportunities for students to learn about power, privilege, intersectionality, and systemic oppression;” as well as an overarching expectation that teachers build classroom environments that are both responsive to and addressing the needs of all of our learners across the state. It is clear from these additions that the Board is seeking to demonstrate the value of students’ identities and experiences, an understanding of the ways in which classroom environments can be places for important public discussion, learning, and growth, and a commitment to make our schools and communities more inclusive places for all. These important standards will help to shape the training of our teachers and teacher candidates to better serve the broad array of identities that Minnesota students bring into the classroom, and reflect the state’s commitment to not only protect but to nurture historically marginalized members of our communities.
And finally, we are fully supportive of including an understanding of “gender identity and sexuality” for candidates in parent and family education. Having a knowledge of these crucial concepts will provide an important foundation for meeting the beautiful diversity of families in Minnesota, and for equipping families with the tools and knowledge to better understand the needs and development of their children. Early childhood and family educators, particularly, can provide developmentally appropriate content and resources that can help shape supportive family environments that can be critical for the health and well-being of youth.
OutFront Minnesota believes that educators want to do right by their students, families, and communities; and we enthusiastically support the Board’s efforts to foster “learning environment[s] where students are empowered to learn and contribute as their whole selves.”
As an organization representing LGBTQ+ Minnesotans we know that these amended standards can help shape a new narrative for youth in our state; and we applaud the continuing efforts to ensure that our schools are welcoming and inclusive spaces for all.
We encourage the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board to adopt the proposed amendments as proposed.