A Minnesota diocese will review its policy towards LGBTQ students after initial news of the policy caused a protest by students and parents. What the final outcome of that policy will be, however, is still up in the air.
Last month, the Diocese of Rochester-Winona posted a policy entitled “Diocese of Winona-Rochester Catholic School Policy on Gender Identity for Students” on the diocesan website, but then removed it after criticism about the policy became public. The contents of the policy are no longer publicly available, but KTTC News had obtained a copy of it before it was taken down and posted some excerpts:
“Students shall conduct themselves in accord with their biological sex at all times.”
“Students shall be addressed at all times by their legal names, and referred to with pronouns consistent with their biological sex.”
“Using preferred names and pronouns will cause confusion for other students and could act as a source of scandal.”
“When attending school-sponsored functions as a ‘couple,’” especially dances and prom, students may only bring a member of the opposite sex.”
An online petition to bring attention and show support for LGBTQ students has collected more than 2,000 signatures. It says that the policy “not only is completely discriminatory towards the LGBTQ+ community, but it also goes against core Catholic teachings of acceptance and creates an unsafe atmosphere at school.
According to the Post-Bulletin, Sister Judith Schaefer, president of Cotter Schools, Winona, explained on the schools’ website that the policy was being delayed until further education of educational staff could take place and more deliberation by the schools in the diocese.
The delay will not prevent the policy from eventually being enacted, however, what the contents of that policy will be is unclear. In a statement, the diocese said, “This policy regarding Gender Identity is in process of implementation which includes consultation with our school board members, staff and parents. After the completion of this process the Diocese will speak more directly on the contents of the policy.”
A student at Lourdes High School, Rochester, commented that the policy “completely disregards and invalidates people’s identities” and that it “completely disregards the mental health of LGBTQ+ students.”
Mary Wright, an alumnus of Lourdes, told the Post Bulletin that she was saddened by the policy and feels the diocese does not want “kids like me to be able to express themselves and feel true to themselves in their school.”
“The Diocese of Winona-Rochester has been given an opportunity to rethink a disastrous first run of its negative policy,” said Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s executive director. “They should not only consult with board members, staff, and parents, but with LGBTQ people, students, and mental health professionals to revise their policy.”
When Catholic schools enforce anti-LGBTQ policies such as this, they are allowing their environments to become a danger to LGBTQ students. The exclusion from administration can influence how other students treat their peers. Such policies do nothing helpful to youth and only harm students who are already marginalized.
—Elise Dubravec, New Ways Ministry, September 10, 2021