Gender Justice Letter to Becker, MN School Board

August 1, 2022 

SENT VIA EMAIL:
Jeremy Schmidt, Superintendent, Becker Public Schools ([email protected])
Aaron Jurek, Director, Becker School Board ([email protected])
Mark Swanson, Chair, Becker School Board ([email protected])
Connie Robinson, Vice Chair, Becker School Board ([email protected])
Pete Weismann, Director, Becker School Board ([email protected])
Ryan Obermoller, Clerk, Becker School Board ([email protected])
Troy Berning, Director, Becker School Board ([email protected])

RE: Proposed Becker School Board Policy 471 

Dear Superintendent Schmidt and Members of the Becker School Board,

I am reaching out on behalf of Gender Justice regarding Policy 471. We have heard from concerned parents, teachers, and advocates that Policy 471 is a veiled attempt to censor LGBTQ students’ speech and expression. We are concerned and disappointed that the Becker School Board is once again promoting anti-LGBTQ policies. This policy would violate students’ First Amendment rights, the Minnesota Human Rights Act, and Title IX. We urge you to reject proposed Policy 471.

As we made clear in a letter on March 21, 2022, the Becker Public Schools school board has a legal obligation to protect and support LGBTQ students. Under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, schools have a duty to ensure that students are not subject to hostile environments in school on account of their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or transgender status. Further, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights issued a notice of interpretation that confirms that Title IX protects students from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and is subject to enforcement.

When it comes to protecting the health, safety, and well-being of marginalized youth in your school district, there are no “two-sides” to the question. Policy 471 defines a controversial issue as “an issue that is the subject of a public referendum which is being debated by political candidates, groups, communities, committees, or organizations”. Even though some political candidates feel entitled to dispute the rights of LGBTQ people, and turn basic human rights into a political debate, your students are human beings, not “political issues.” Our state and federal laws are clear: it is nonnegotiable that schools must uphold and protect the rights of LGBTQ students.

If the Becker Public Schools continue down this path of failing to prevent discrimination against LGBTQ students, you are putting yourselves at risk for legal action. As we need not remind you, the Anoka-Hennepin school district was sued for discrimination and for violating the constitutional rights of students. Part of what led to the repeated and severe problems at Anoka-Hennepin was the School’s “Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy” which prohibited any teaching about sexual orientation and forced all staff “in the course of their professional duties” to “remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation including but not limited to student led discussions.” I understand that Becker is considering going down the same path as Anoka-Hennepin, taking actions such as banning pride flags at school and forcing staff to take down safe space indicators in the name of “neutrality.” Your school has LGBTQ+ students and staff. There is nothing “neutral” about censoring students’ speech or self-expression. I would encourage you to look carefully at Anoka-Hennepin’s  consent decree, which enumerates the specific changes Anoka-Hennepin was required to make – the federal government required the school to vocally and affirmatively support LGBTQ+ youth, and monitored them for years to ensure they did so. 

We will not allow any school district to follow in the footsteps of Anoka-Hennepin. We will be paying close attention to the School Board meeting discussion on Policy 471, and will continue to monitor how Becker treats its LGBTQ students for the foreseeable future.

Sincerely,

Erin Maye Quade
Gender Justice, Advocacy Director

 

Resources:
  1. Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Ariz., 576 U.S. 155, 163 (2015)
  2. Minn. Stat. § 363A.13
  3. https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/202106-titleix-noi.pdf
  4. https://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/d6_legacy_files/downloads/case/Anoka_complaint072111.pdf
  5. https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/usao-mn/legacy/2012/03/06/Anoka-Hennepin%20FINAL%20Consent%20Decree.pdf

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