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Minn. district tells teachers to use student's preferred names, pronouns 'regardless of parental consent'

Randolph Heights Elementary School (Credit: Saint Paul Public Schools)
Randolph Heights Elementary School (Credit: Saint Paul Public Schools)
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One of the largest public school districts in Minnesota is explicitly instructing teachers to use students' preferred names and pronouns with or without parental consent.

Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS) says it prioritizes fostering learning environments that affirm all gender identities and forms of gender expression. The district first introduced its Gender Inclusion Policy in 2014 following reports of students being harassed and discriminated against due to their gender identity.

The policy, which has been repeatedly updated, aims to provide SPPS's nearly 40,000 students with resources and facilities ensuring they feel "comfortable and safe."

The policy details expectations for staff in achieving this goal, which range from honoring all gender identities to appropriately handling communications with families. The policy's language indicates that the direction of those communications is to be driven solely by students.

Upon written or oral request from a student, and regardless of parental consent, a student is to be addressed in classes, announcements, and other school gatherings by the name and/or pronoun requested by the student," the school district's Gender Inclusion Policy reads.

The policy goes on to require the same in all "digitally viewable spaces," including SPPS emails and online learning platforms.

All SPPS students looking to modify their name and pronouns in the district's information system must submit a request form. The form includes a location for parents to sign if the student is under 18, however, it asserts that a student may contact a staff member instead if a parent is unavailable.

SPPS notes that all requested changes will be honored, with the exception of those deemed "patently offensive" by administrators.

The policy extends to school facilities and extracurricular activities as well.

SPPS discourages the separation of students based on gender unless it is deemed to be a "compelling pedagogical tool." Teachers are prohibited from enforcing the separation in several instances, including competitions and when lining up their students.

Students are also permitted to participate on athletic teams and use restrooms and locker rooms best corresponding with their gender identity.

SPPS's long-standing goal of granting "equitable access" to opportunities for its entire student body aligns with sentiments recently expressed at the state level.

Minnesota is in the process of placing a greater emphasis on gender identity in public schools. The state's Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) is looking to require aspiring teachers to affirm students' gender identities, as well as incorporate them into classroom discussion, in order to become licensed.

READ MORE: Minnesota poised to require teachers to affirm student gender identity, sexual orientation

The standards, set to be implemented no earlier than 2024, have been called an "ideological litmus test" by critics.

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The National Desk (TND) reached out to SPPS for comment but did not immediately receive a response. This story will be updated if a response is received.

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