The Osseo School Board voted on Tuesday night to accept the adoption of the new gender inclusion policy, despite major critique from district residents and parents. In footage of the school board meeting, two board members, Heather Douglass and Tanya Simons moved to strike the vote on the policy, citing concerns that citizens have not been able to give enough input into the decision. Their motion to strike that from the agenda did not pass, and the gender inclusion policy was passed on a 4-2 vote.
In the Tuesday meeting, several citizens spoke in favor of the policy, talking about creating a safe space and “acceptance” for all students. At the meeting, two of the district’s teachers also announced the creation of an LGBTQ Social Studies course for the Osseo District high schools. Others spoke out against the policy, asking the school board to make a decision that best considered the safety of the students.
As reported by The Minnesota Sun, the policy reads that the school district will, “Respect all students’ sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and gender nonconformity.” The policy also says the school will no longer allow for activities that separate the students by gender. The policy promises the district will require the schools to have, “school officials [that] will work with families and students to identify one or more safe staff members that gender nonconforming students can access if they require additional support during the school day.”
Daren Mehl, a father of two Osseo students and a former member of the LGBTQ community, explained in an interview with The Sun why he spoke out against the policy at the school board meeting.
“My motivation was to share my heart for children, which as a Christian, I believe is God’s heart for children, which is that God created us male and female,” Mehl said. “And to know that you were created with value. Instead of valuing the children for who they are, the policy will be teaching children that boys can be girls and girls can be boys.”
Mehl is the president of Voice of the Voiceless, an organization that works to help those who struggle with same-sex attraction. According to the Voice of the Voiceless website, they exist to “defend the rights of former homosexuals, individuals with unwanted same-sex attraction, and their families.”
Mehl said that, as someone who formerly belonged to the LBGTQ community, the mentality behind the policy can actually create depression and suicidal thoughts.
He said, “How horrible is it to think that your body is your enemy.” He also took issue with a specific statement within the policy, requiring the school to designate a “safe staff member.” Mehl said that the statement implies that all of the staff are not safe. While some board and audience members took issue with Mehl’s public comments regarding religion, he responded, “The definitions of the policy are, in a way, religious doctrines, just godless ones.” Mehl said, “They are debating human rights, but I’m trying to talk about the inalienable rights from our Creator.”
One of the board members, Heather Douglass, shared her concerns about the gender inclusion policy.
“Creating a new policy without rigorous input from the affected stakeholder groups is reckless and irresponsible,” Douglass said. She explained that the school board did not receive input from the various community members that would be impacted by the policy.
Douglass said typically the board would hold “listening sessions” with those affected by the new policy and argued that the way that it was instated violated the Osseo School Board Policy 208. She called the policy “inconsistent” with district policies already in place.
Another board member who spoke against the policy, Tanya Simons, reminded the school board that “good intention does not equal good policy.” She also shared her confusion about the implementation of the policy. She said, “It is unfortunate that the policy language is not clear enough to be explicit about how this would be implemented.” She took issue with how the policy was being based on “intentions,” saying that it doesn’t feel like an “appropriate standard to be applied consistently across the district.”
Jackie Mosqueda-Jones spoke on behalf of the policy, asking board members to pass it. She shared her thoughts on the policy and the need for gender non-conforming students to feel safe. She said, “An inclusive, supportive, welcoming school climate is a leading factor for student success.” Mosqueda-Jones called the policy “science” and said that passing the policy is necessary to create a supportive, inclusive, and welcoming place for LGBTQ students.
Thomas Brooks, another board member, also spoke in favor of the policy. Brooks is an “openly gay man” and he explained how this policy is something that has been “a long time coming.” He referenced two of the community members who spoke out against the policy, Luca Groppoli and Daren Mehl, calling their comments “asinine.” Brooks proceeded to tell the two that “your organization and everything you stand for is wrong” and that they weaponized their religion.
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Hayley Tschetter is a reporter with The Minnesota Sun | Star News Network and The College Fix. She graduated with a degree in Communications from the University of Northwestern-St. Paul. Send news tips to [email protected]