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ADF warns school districts: Minnesota Dept. of Education guidelines violate student privacy rights

ADF, North Star Law & Policy Center send joint letter, model policy to all school board members, superintendents in state
Published On: 10/18/2017

ROSEVILLE, Minn. – Alliance Defending Freedom and the North Star Law & Policy Center have issued a letter to all school districts in Minnesota to warn them about potential violations of students’ and parents’ constitutionally protected freedoms if they adopt state Department of Education guidelines issued last month via the agency’s School Safety Technical Assistance Council.

The guidelines, titled “Toolkit for Ensuring Safe and Supportive Schools for Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students,” are not mandatory but use erroneous information to encourage all school districts in the state to craft policies that admit students to areas such as locker rooms and showers, and assign overnight accommodations for school trips, based on a student’s perceived gender identity rather than by biological sex. The ADF and NSLPC letter supplies a model policy for schools and school districts to consider that respects the privacy rights of all students without subjecting schools to legal liability like the toolkit does.

“School districts have the duty and discretion to create policies that safeguard the privacy and safety of all students as well as the rights of parents,” said ADF Legal Counsel Doug Wardlow. “Schools and school districts that adopt the Minnesota Department of Education’s toolkit risk subjecting themselves to legal liability for violating the fundamental rights of students and parents. Neither the toolkit nor any law requires schools or school districts to allow students into changing areas of the opposite sex, or to share overnight accommodations with members of the opposite sex.”

The toolkit also recommends that schools require students to refer to other students using their preferred pronouns regardless of their biological sex, falsely warning schools that failing to require the use of students’ preferred pronouns might be considered sexual harassment under Title IX. Title IX, a federal law rooted in biological realities and designed to create a level playing field for female athletes, also has accompanying regulations that expressly permit schools and school districts to designate locker rooms, restrooms, and other facilities by biological sex. Minnesota law does the same.

“The toolkit’s recommendations fly squarely in the face of federal and state law,” said Wardlow. “Not only does opening up changing areas in the way the toolkit suggests violate student privacy rights, but forcing students to use certain personal pronouns is an obvious freedom of speech violation under the First Amendment. In addition, the toolkit’s recommendations turn legal protections for female athletes on their head by limiting athletic opportunities for girls and ignoring biological realities that can put girls in greater danger of physical injury, a concern that NSLPC attorneys have engaged at the local level. Schools and school districts should refuse to implement the toolkit’s recommendations.”

By contrast, the ADF and NSLPC letter explains, “Adopting the enclosed Model Policy will help your school district protect the rights of all students by accommodating students struggling with gender-identity issues while protecting the fundamental rights of other students and their parents consistent with both state and federal law.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.


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