Minnesota teachers union expels school counselor who voiced concerns about trans policies

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A Minnesota teachers union voted to expel a member who publicly expressed concern about her school district's policies concerning trans-identified students and felt the district did not take steps to inform parents if their child identifies as the opposite sex.

Christina Barton is a student counselor with Rochester Public Schools who has spoken up during school board meetings about the district's policies regarding trans-identified students. Earlier this month, the Rochester Education Association sent Barton a letter to inform her that she had been expelled, which was republished by the American Experiment, a nonprofit organization.

The letter alleged that Barton "mischaracterized Rochester Public Schools policies and practices regarding LGBTQ+ students, spoke negatively of fellow union members, and spread misinformation about transgender youth."

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"REA recognizes that you are free to hold whatever viewpoints you wish regarding LGBTQ+ students or any other matter, but viewpoints are not free from consequences, especially if they cause or contribute to unprofessional behavior," the letter stated.

Vince Wagner, president of the Rochester Education Association, told The Christian Post that the union expelled Barton for violating the National Education Association's Code of Ethics for teachers, specifically, Principle 1, "Commitment to the Student." Wagner stated that Barton violated Parts 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the principle.

In a Tuesday statement published by the American Experiment, Barton asserted that it seems only employees who "succumb to censorship and intimidation" are accepted in a culture that professes "all are welcome" and "kindness abides and bullying isn't allowed."

"Following my public statement to the school board on March 19, I have experienced countless retaliatory responses that are unprofessional, inaccurate, and very hurtful to me as a person as well as a concerned counselor and parent who is merely trying to advocate in the best interests of kids and on behalf of all parents," Barton said. "I love my students with all of my heart and soul; always have, always will."

Rochester Public Schools did not immediately respond to The Christian Post's request for comment. 

Local outlet The Post Bulletin reported Tuesday that Wagner said that the union voted to expel Barton earlier this month after the second time she spoke during a Rochester School Board meeting. 

The student counselor spoke before the school board on March 19 and May 7, where she highlighted concerns about parental rights and whether staff should tell parents if their child is experiencing confusion about their sex. 

"How would a parent know how to request such information if they aren't aware their child is struggling with gender dysphoria? How would a parent be able to care for and support their student if the school never reached out to them," the counselor said at one of the meetings.

In March, the elementary student counselor spoke about the district's guidelines concerning trans-identified students during a YouTube interview titled, "Christina Barton, Counselor, Rochester Public Schools, ISD535, on Dr. Kent Pekel's Secret Policy."

Barton said during the interview that her school district did not share the guidelines until February during a staff meeting. In addition to staff members, the counselor claimed that the district did not share the guidelines with parents and community members. She also alleged that during one staff development meeting, the staff was shown a "disturbing" video about transgenderism and how they should withhold the information from parents.

According to the district guidelines regarding parents' access to information, the law "generally" gives parents a right to access "educational data" about their kid when the child is a minor.

Suppose parents request information about whether their child is using pronouns or the restroom that does not align with their sex. In that case, the guidelines state that staff "must provide that information to the parent/guardian if the staff member is in possession of that information at the time the request is made."

"Staff members may refuse to provide such information if the student is 18 years of age or older, unless the parent has been designated as the child's legal guardian or conservator," the guidelines state. "Any staff member who provides such information to a parent/guardian should promptly inform the lead principal of the school or lead administrator of the program." 

Barton's expulsion comes after a school district in California agreed this week to pay $360,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a teacher fired for refusing to abide by a district policy requiring teachers to use students' preferred pronouns.

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follow her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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