Dayton slams feds’ rollback of transgender student rule

Updated 12:42 p.m. | Posted 10:44 a.m.

Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday attacked a federal decision to pull back on rules intended to accommodate the needs of transgender children in schools.

The United States Justice and Education departments said Wednesday that public schools no longer need to follow Obama administration orders requiring that transgender students be allowed to use bathrooms and locker rooms of their chosen gender.

The Obama rules provoked a legal backlash in parts of the country, including a Virginia, Minn., lawsuit, with some arguing that children could be forced into an intimate setting with someone of the opposite sex.

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Trump administration officials on Wednesday said those decisions should rest with state and local governments.

Dayton, however, criticized that move and urged Minnesota schools to adhere to the Obama-era regulations and protect transgender students. He noted that the most recent Minnesota student survey showed transgender students feel less safe in schools than other students.

"These are vulnerable people," Dayton told reporters. "They deserve our compassion and support, not our attacks and demonization."

State law, he added, still requires school districts to ensure that transgender students, like all other students, are provided with safe learning environments and are not harassed.

"As a person of Christian faith, I am mystified that others who profess to be people of faith would demonize school children who simply want to go to the bathroom," the governor said.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said he believes turning decisions about transgender students back to the states is appropriate. Gazelka said local school leaders should be able to work through the issue “as they see fit.”

“Every situation is different, and I think that’s a better way to do it,” Gazelka said.

MPR News reporter Tim Pugmire contributed to this report.