ST. PAUL, MN – Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Justice issued a letter to schools, withdrawing the statements of policy and guidance issued under President Obama directing that transgender students should be allowed to use the restrooms, locker rooms, and other school facilities that correlate with their gender identity. In response to this withdrawal, Governor Mark Dayton and Lt. Governor Tina Smith today issued the following statements.
The following is a statement from Governor Mark Dayton.
“I strongly disagree with the Trump Administration’s decision to withdraw the protections that his predecessor provided to transgender students in being able to use the school bathrooms, which match their gender identities. This is not a ‘States' Rights Issue;’ it is a Human Rights Issue. And it should be a Constitutionally-protected right, if the long-stated purpose of the United States Constitution is to protect a minority of people from oppression by some, who are in the majority.
“According to my legal counsel, there is no explicit provision within Minnesota statutes that explicitly addresses what bathrooms transgender students should be allowed to use in schools. The Minnesota Supreme Court has however previously held in the employment context that the Minnesota Human Rights Act ‘neither requires nor prohibits restroom designation according to self-image or gender or according to biological gender.’
“Accordingly, it would appear that each Minnesota school district has the authority, and the responsibility, to develop its own guidelines for which bathrooms transgender students should be allowed to use in their schools.
“However, I note that the Trump Administration’s pronouncement does not affect the applicability of Minnesota’s statutes and the protections provided under the state’s Human Rights Act and the Safe and Supportive Schools Act, which prohibit the bullying of transgender students and all other students, for whatever purpose is prohibited by law. Schools must still ensure that transgender students are provided with safe environments in which to learn, and not harassed.
“However, despite this action by the Trump Administration, I strongly urge school board members to adhere to the directives established by the Obama Administration. As a person of Christian faith, I am mystified that others, who profess to be people of faith, could demonize schoolchildren, who simply want to go to the bathroom. The vile fantasies some of those adults conjure up, which supposedly require their ‘protection,’ are more accurately reflections of their own imaginations than real-world realities.
“I ask Minnesota school districts to look carefully at the results of the 2016 Minnesota Student Survey, published by the Minnesota Department of Education that says that transgender students are decidedly less likely to feel safe in our schools, and that they are subject to greater discrimination, harassment, and bullying, despite Minnesota’s statutes. And more than half of all transgender students and lesbian and gay students in Minnesota have seriously considered attempting suicide, according to this survey. These are vulnerable people with very challenging life circumstances. They deserve our compassion and our support – not our attacks and demonization.”
[Note, a previous version of this statement indicated that more than half of all transgender students have attempted suicide; it should have said "seriously considered attempting suicide." The number who actually attempted suicide is still alarmingly high, at 31 percent.]
The following is a statement from Lt. Governor Tina Smith.
“On behalf of students and parents across Minnesota, I strongly oppose the President's action to roll back protections for transgender students. All students deserve to be protected from discrimination, bullying and hate. The reasonable protections put in place by President Obama assured the basic dignity of all transgender students. Those protections should be upheld by school districts here in Minnesota, and around the country.
“I am proud that Minnesota has put protections in place for our LGBTQ students, but we still need to do more. Governor Dayton and I will continue to do all we can to defend the rights and dignity of every young Minnesotan, including transgender students.”