District, GSA clash over Inclusion Policy

Tensions on display at School Board meeting


Kailey DeLozier

Freshman Mathew Loftus receives high fives after his speech at the school board meeting April 24. The Gender Sexuality Alliance and their supporters proposed a gender inclusive policy to the school board.

While attempting to push the passage of a new Gender Inclusion Policy, the Gender Sexuality Alliance’s petition garnered over 600 signatures, including that of U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison.

According to Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) student president senior Elise Bargman, concerned students attended the April 24 School Board meeting to voice their frustration with the pace of the district’s drafting of a new Gender Inclusion Policy.

French teacher and GSA adviser Kyle Sweeney said the push to draft a new Gender Inclusion Policy began last year, yet with little progress.

“Mr. Metz came to us, it feels like a year ago, with a gender inclusion policy that he had taken from another district or a combination of other districts,” Sweeney said. “He had been talking to people about it. He wants a gender inclusion policy, and so does the (School) Board, so we gave some feedback and then we were kind of waiting, and waiting, and waiting and nothing happened.”

Superintendent Rob Metz said he started the process of writing the Gender Inclusion Policy, but delayed court decisions have resulted in caution regarding the policy’s introduction to the School Board.

“I have the beginnings of a policy that I think in general the students would approve of but I haven’t brought it to the board yet for a couple reasons,” Metz said. “One is our attorney is recommending that we don’t yet. She’s recommending waiting for the Supreme Court to make a decision. The Minnesota School Board Association is also recommending that we don’t write one until the courts rule on this so we’re kind of stuck in the middle.”

Sweeney said the court cases the administration cited are no longer relevant, especially in light of action taken on the issue by other school districts, namely Minneapolis and St. Paul Public Schools.

“We feel like none of (the District’s) excuses are good, and that they should take a stand, because other districts have taken a stand,” Sweeney said.

School Board member chair Jim Yarosh said the School Board sought to allow all stakeholders to share their opinion, despite time constraints.

“We did the best we could to accommodate all the people there who wanted to speak and it was good input,” Yarosh said.

Despite the opportunity to voice their concerns, Bargman said she was especially troubled by the response Metz provided at the School Board meeting.

“I felt that the way that Mr. Metz phrased his response, it didn’t sound like he was really listening and if he was, he wasn’t acknowledging the points that we had made,” Bargman said. “It felt like excuses.”

Sweeney said she also found Metz’s response to be unsatisfactory.

“(Metz) compared the policy to the memorial policy, and he was trying to explain how policy was put in place,” Sweeney said. “I think he was minimizing the issue because the memorial policy is a procedure, it’s a procedural policy on what the school’s response should be in that sort of situation, but this not a procedure this is student protection and it was frankly a little insulting.”

Metz said he understands the community’s concerns about the speed of the policy’s passing, but reiterated the importance of patience surrounding pending court decisions.

“It’s just safer to wait. I know it’s frustrating for the students,” Metz said. “The courts are really where it’s going to be decided and they aren’t ruling on it. So we’re kind of hanging here waiting, cause whatever we do we’re going to get pushback from one side or the other and it would just be a lot safer to say ‘the courts have ruled and this is what they say.’”

Yarosh said the School Board’s reticence to pass the policy is in part a result of the greater social implications of the issues at stake.

“Obviously there may be some other considerations, so I hate to put a timetable on it,” Yarosh said. “There may be other branches of government that weigh in, I mean these are bigger societal issues that we can’t do something on, but if there’s a court ruling, that may have an impact.”

According to Metz, the policy remains a point of controversy among students, and both perspectives must be taken into account prior to its passing.

“This (policy) is unique because there are parts of it that the students who were at the School Board meeting would really approve of but a lot of other students wouldn’t,” Metz said. “It would mean hearing from them too, and we haven’t done that yet. So there would have to be a lot of listening to all different kinds of points of view.”

Bargman said the GSA will continue to work to pass the Gender Inclusion Policy despite the lack of School Board action thus far.

“We are going to continue to push,” Bargman said. “I think we’re not quite sure what our strategy is from here on out but we’re thinking that we might continue attending open forum meetings until the School Board takes action.”