Let's set the record straight on ND law affecting transgender students

The new law based on HB 1522 addresses choice, parental involvement, and safety for all students.

Mark Jorritsma.jpg
Mark Jorritsma
Contributed / North Dakota Family Alliance

North Dakota Family Alliance firmly believes in a pluralistic nation and state. One where different viewpoints can be held and all can exercise the freedoms we hold so dear, subject to the rule of law as determined by a democratic process. The Fargo School Board seems to believe otherwise, given their recent statement that they will actively disobey the recently signed and enacted House Bill 1522.

At the board’s May 9 meeting, Superintendent Dr. Rupak Gandhi stated that they would defy the new law and cited transgender young people’s suicide rates and lack of parental support among the reasons. We certainly want the best for every student in North Dakota, including the estimated 1.2% of young people aged 13-17 in our state who identify as transgender . But what about the other 98.8% of students?

The issue is that Gandhi and the rest of their board believe that HB 1522 causes harm, while we would contend that it prevents harm. As Gov. Doug Burgum stated numerous times, North Dakotans need to start by actually reading the bill. Here is a link , in case you are unfamiliar with its contents.

As is apparent, it is not some draconian legislation aimed at hurting transgender young people, but quite the opposite. It is meant to prevent harm to all the other students, parents, and teachers in North Dakota. The major elements of the bill state: 1.) teachers and students cannot be forced to use preferred pronouns, 2.) restrooms are only to be used by those of the same biological sex and, 3.) a school and its staff cannot withhold or conceal information about a student's transgender status. Looking at the bill from a somewhat more conceptual perspective, here are the key ideas embodied in the bill that seem to be getting the most opposition and media attention.

Choice: The bill states more than once, “…may not adopt a policy requiring or prohibiting…”. Nobody is limiting the use of pronouns. It merely protects students and teachers from being forced into using a student’s requested pronoun. Teachers and students do not leave their First Amendment rights at the front door of the school.


Parental Involvement: The new law states in multiple places that things may only be done, “…with the approval of the parent or legal guardian…”. In other words, parents are the first and final decision-makers when it comes to their child’s education. We agree. This may be shocking to some in the more “progressive” educational establishment, but that’s how it is. In fact, it was reinforced this session with the passage of HB 1362, affirming parental rights in education and many more areas. It’s clearly important to legislators, and by extension, the North Dakotans they represent. Imagine if it was proposed that parents be prevented from seeing their children’s grades. Both parents and educators would quickly agree it was a bad idea and should not happen. This bill prevents withholding information from parents about something even more important than grades – a child’s preferred gender. Believe it or not, parents can actually help their children work through feelings of gender dysphoria.

Safety: The new law prevents transgender students from using restrooms that do not coincide with their biological sex. We heard over and again during testimony this session that transgender individuals do not pose a physical danger to members of the opposite biological sex. Whether or not this is true, those who are not transgender will quickly see an opportunity to capitalize on social permissiveness and pose an actual physical danger to other students using restrooms. Further, what is often omitted is the emotional and psychological danger people of the opposite sex can pose to other students by sharing a bathroom. It is not difficult to imagine a scenario where a young girl is traumatized by having a biological boy expose himself to her in a school restroom. This bill prevents that from happening.

The new law based on HB 1522 addresses choice, parental involvement, and safety for all students. Some might argue that these no longer exist for transgender students under the new law. However, the law allows a transgender student to be identified by another name or gender. It allows a transgender student to use a restroom that conforms to their biological sex or a family-designated bathroom. It allows a child to present as transgender.

All of this does not even begin to address the blatant disregard for the law that the Fargo School Board and its Superintendent have modeled for their students. They have effectively said that it is perfectly fine for students to ignore laws they disapprove of. Does that also apply to their students if they disagree with school rules? What if parents decide to ignore school district mandates and regulations? And these do not even have the weight of law. Do you see how this can quickly spiral out of control?

In the wake of this controversy, the Fargo School Board has invited students in other districts to join their district in its enlightened position. Considering that their position is unlawful, the attraction might be a bit less enthusiastic than they expect, but we will see. Is it some sort of virtue signaling? Or maybe it’s just a poorly thought-through position that endangers the stability and support for their school district? Only time will tell, but one thing is for certain. It doesn’t represent North Dakota values, and the last time I checked, Fargo was still part of North Dakota.

The North Dakota Family Alliance's mission is to equip North Dakotans to engage in God-honoring citizenship and advocate for policies that strengthen faith, family and freedom, according to its website, .

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