As reported by Sahan Journal, St. Louis Park Schools have allowed for some families to request opt-outs from certain books containing LGBTQ+ character or topics after threat of legal action from Texas-based First Liberty Institute.

As an organization we believe that family engagement in education is important, and we recognize that there are a broad range of cultural and religious beliefs around LGBTQ+ identities. However, broad opt-outs to topics around diverse identities are not educational best practice and further harm to historically marginalized student groups. LGBTQ+ inclusive content and lessons are good for all students and essential to fostering inclusion, addressing bullying, and equipping students to be active members of our state’s diverse communities.

We applaud St. Louis Park Schools’ continuing commitment to “ensuring that the district’s learning communities honor and respect the identities of all of our students, families, staff and broader community, including diverse gender identity and gender expression;” and we echo the District’s statement that “Opt-outs based on representation of protected classes do not uphold our values of creating safe and inclusive learning and working environments in our schools.” We have been assured that while individual families have been granted opt-outs this does not represent a change to district policy, nor will it have broader impacts on support or inclusion of LGBTQ+ students and families in St. Louis Park.

Whether we are dealing with LGBTQ+ topics or any number of other identities, public schools are exactly the places where we should be having conversation around how we build diverse communities that are welcoming and inclusive of all Minnesotans. We trust our educators to facilitate age-appropriate, culturally relevant conversations that support learning and growth.

OutFront Minnesota engaged the St. Louis Park School Board, community members, and our partner organizations over the past couple of months to ensure support for LGBTQ+ families and community members, and we are committed to continuing to navigate that work as these conversations move forward in St. Louis Park and throughout the state. We look forward to engaging in further discussions with lawmakers and state leadership to help clarify Minnesota’s opt-out requirements to help give clarity to school boards and administrators navigating these concerns.

Nothing about this decision changes the fact that Minnesota schools must provide safe and inclusive environments for students of all backgrounds—including LGBTQ+ students.

LGBTQ+ students are in every school district in every community in this state, and we are committed to continuing to engage to support conversations and policies that support all students and families regardless of background or identity.