Catholic Secondary School Administrators Group letter to Board of Minnesota State High School League

Addressed to the Board of the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL):

As educational practitioners, we presidents and heads of Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis wish to express our concerns over the proposed policy.  We thank the MSHSL for providing this opportunity.

Along with their parents or guardians, our students have freely chosen Catholic options for their high school years.  Formally associated with the Catholic Church, our schools are entrusted with an obligation to propose Catholic faith and morals to those who choose to attend.

Teachings about human sexuality are integral to this obligation.  Our schools’ longstanding tradition has been to counsel the virtues of patience and chastity.  We understand the high school years to be ones of intense and varied psychological and emotional development, especially psychosexual development.  Premature decisions about sex and sexuality can have unwelcome and lasting effects.  High school counseling offices are flooded with tales of regret, broken hearts, and coarsened lives.

A popular culture that fuels early decisions about sex and sexuality has, in our experience, been counterproductive to the happiness of young people.  And now a new cultural movement that encourages minors to consider “gender options” will likewise prove counterproductive.

Research findings support this view.  When children who reported transgender feelings were tracked without medical or surgical treatment at both Vanderbilt University and London’s Portman Clinic, 70%-80% of them spontaneously lost those feelings.  What conceivable benefit could be served by high schools explicitly or implicitly advocating hormone replacement therapies and/or surgical procedures to such youths?

High schools are and should be places where adolescents are discouraged from making early choices that they may come to regret, and that may have lasting consequences. This observation is uncontroversial when applied in many areas: smoking, alcohol and drug use, pregnancy, and even visible tattoos and the immoderate consumption of fat, salt, and sugar.  Why, then, not when applied to early choices about medically fostered changes in gender identity?

In Catholic high schools, we certainly have obligations to young persons with gender dysphoria.  The obligations are those we have to any in our community who experience feelings of difference: they must be assured a safe and caring environment in which to learn and mature.  But our obligations cannot extend to accommodating participation on sex-specific teams for persons of the opposite biological sex (except for narrow exceptional cases required by Minnesota statute).

Our faith, confirmed by chromosomal and reproductive reality, insists on the maleness or femaleness of each human being.  Our faith also insists, and in this same context, that males and females equally share in the image and likeness of God.  This is the source of our understanding that all persons must be accepted, to quote the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”

Thus bigotry, harassment, and bullying have no place in our schools, being contrary to tenets of our faith. Christian faith offers a sure and historic foundation for understanding the transcendent dignity of every human person, and also for rights grounded in that dignity.

Our concrete approaches to protecting the dignity of young persons with gender dysphoria, whether members of our community or visitors, emerge from our commitments to protect the dignity of all. As to the MSHSL’s proposed policy requirement that member schools “ensure reasonable and appropriate restroom and locker room accessibility,” we respond thus:  we will not alter our rules about locker and restroom facilities.  These are based on the immutable biological sex of students and deeply rooted in accepted custom.  The custom has as its firmest contemporary rationale the protection of users’ rights.  Biological males and females have the right to sex-specific privacy in these environments.  Any policy interpretation requiring that biological males be admitted to females-only facilities, or vice versa, would cause an unnecessary and irresolvable clash of claimed rights.  The clash is easily avoided by our willing provision of individualized and private opportunities for any student with rare and distinctive needs.

In sum, we join the Minnesota Catholic Conference in opposing adoption of the proposed policy.  In addition to our substantive concerns, the policy is itself unclear:  are the “Areas of Awareness for Member Schools” suggestions or mandates?  If suggestions, a policy is unfitting.  If mandates, there is no mention of consequences for noncompliance, nor of exemptions on First Amendment or other grounds.  It is difficult for any school to weigh the potential impacts of a policy if it cannot discern what a policy requires.

We thank you for your consideration.

The Catholic Secondary School Administrators Group of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis