Minneapolis Public Schools students can now choose their preferred name and gender on all district forms, a change that was made over spring break but took effect Monday when students arrived back at school.
The new policy, which has been in the works for a while, builds on an informal one instituted in 2013 that said teachers and other school staff should honor the preferred names of transgender students and allow them to use the restroom of the gender with which they identify, said district spokesman Dirk Tedmon.
This latest step formalizes the district’s support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students, Tedmon said.
“Now it’s an official thing in the student information system,” he said. “I think it’s about affirming the experiences of our students and recognizing them for who they are.”
Early Monday morning, Out4Good, the district’s initiative aimed at LGBT students, tweeted: “This important change allows for students to have their name and gender properly reflected in our systems, brings about greater visibility and respect for our #transgender and gender nonconforming students, and helps build strong student/staff relationships.”
The district’s Twitter and Facebook accounts link to the new “preferred name/gender change request form,” which contains a section where students can write in their preferred first and middle name and their alternate gender. Gender choices include male, female and nonbinary, for students who consider themselves neither male nor female. Students can also check a box if they want their district e-mail address to reflect the changes. A parent or guardian signature is required for students younger than 18.
Not everyone finds the new practice helpful. John Helmberger, CEO of the Minnesota Family Council, said it leaves schools unable to defend students against discrimination in certain situations.
In particular, young women — who have “been historically vulnerable to unequal treatment” — could be hurt by the change, he said.
“If boys are allowed to identify as girls on official school documents, girls’ privacy, girls-only sports, female scholarship opportunities, will no longer be preserved for biological girls as they were intended,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Biological boys will pre-empt girls’ hard-won rights and freedoms.”