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Letter to the editor: Rep. Green off the mark on 'Toolkit' commentary

Rep. Steve Green recently sent constituents a taxpayer-funded personal commentary regarding a Minnesota Department of Education toolkit for educators. His comments were disappointing and seemed to imply that transgender children are not entitled to feel safe in school. The facts say otherwise, as does the epidemic of teen suicides. Who are these tools designed to serve?

Last week, the University of Minnesota released a study of more than 80,000 9th and 11th graders statewide. Readers might be surprised to learn that 3 percent identify as transgender. Statewide, that's 26,250 students of the 875,000 students enrolled in 2017.

A 2016 state Dept. of Education survey revealed that gay, lesbian and transgender youth are significantly more likely to not feel safe at school (20 percent less than heterosexual children) and are significantly more likely to be bullied (20-plus percent more than heterosexual youth). Sadly, 55 percent of gay, lesbian and transgender youth have attempted suicide compared to 16 percent of heterosexual youth.

Educators are on the front lines of the fight to prevent bullying and will be better equipped to aid students because of the tools and training provided by the Dept. of Education. If even one young person is not bullied or does not commit suicide because of the Department of Education's Toolkit, families will not have to bear the grief and loss of losing a child. Imagine telling a parent that the school district had a toolkit that may have saved a child's life, but instead they chose to pretend transgender students didn't exist, weren't disproportionately bullied, and didn't commit suicide.

In an era where some believe facts aren't relevant, these facts tell a sad story. Federal laws do not equip teachers for classroom reality and obviously are not protecting students. Practical advice and proven resources save lives, making this toolkit especially valuable.

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