ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Department of Education is preparing to update its student data collection system so that it can recognize gender identities besides male and female.

The department says it began exploring the change last year and held feedback sessions in March with supporters and opponents. A public comment period opened Monday, Nov. 30, and runs through Dec. 13.

The department aims to have all schools collecting and reporting student enrollment using the new options by 2022. Exactly what those options might be is yet to be determined.

Since 2018, Minnesotans have been able mark their gender on driver’s license applications as “non-binary” as an alternative to male or female.

But participants in the education department’s feedback sessions generally wanted even more options, such as nonbinary, genderqueer, genderfluid and two-spirit, the department said.

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Some school districts already give students three or more gender options in their local records systems, but those records must be converted to a binary choice for the state’s data collection.

St. Paul Public Schools in 2015 began allowing students to write in some other gender as an alternative to male or female. The school district also allows students to formally select which restrooms they use, which single-gender sports they can play and to pick a pronoun that matches their gender identity.

Nearly 3% of ninth-graders participating in the anonymous Minnesota Student Survey in 2019 self-identified as some gender besides male or female or said they weren’t sure of their gender.

The education department uses student gender information in its reporting of achievement data, such as graduation rates and standardized test scores.

To comment on the proposal, email mde.datafeedback@state.mn.us.