LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Controversy continues to swirl around proposed guidelines that would allow students in Michigan to choose their own gender identity, impacting how teachers refer to them and which bathrooms they use.
The Michigan State Board of Education, which developed the guidelines to assist schools in handling LGBTQ students’ issues, has encouraged public comment — and they’ve gotten it. Nearly 9,000 online comments have poured in.
Tuesday in Lansing, the board heard from people in person. Students, teachers and parents all spoke out — some in support of and others in opposition to the proposed recommendations.
If adopted, the guidelines could mean big changes for transgender students — and much-needed changes at that, said transgender student Aiden Tatum. Clutching a written letter, Ramirez-Tatum spoke in front of the board in support of the proposed policy.
“I wanted them to see my face,” Ramirez-Tatum told WILX, the NBC affiliate in Lansing. “I wanted them to see that trans students are real people who are really struggling and are facing way more than they should have to.”
As part of the guidelines, the state released statistics that show LGBTQ students are more than twice as likely as others to be threatened or injured with weapons at school.
“Sometimes I do not feel safe in school because of people’s lack of education on these topics,” transgender student Skyler Faerber said at the board meeting, WILX reports.
The guidelines hope to combat that. They encourage schools to have staff equipped to talk about LGBTQ issues, and ask schools to adopt policies to protect those students, along with the gender identity and bathroom changes.
The pushback has been powerful — so much so that state Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, has committed to introducing legislation to block part of the guidelines. Casperson wants to ban kids from using bathrooms that don’t match the sex on their birth certificate.
Those who opposed the proposal said the guidelines go too far in supporting student confidentiality and that parents could be left in the dark. Board member Richard Zeile agreed.
“The guidelines themselves go at a very narrow perspective,” Zeile said Tuesday, according to WILX. “The child and the age is not specified, so this can be as early as kindergarten can choose his or her own identity and have it concealed from the parents, which suggests the school’s keeping one set of records for use in-house.”
The recommendations are not yet finalized and the state said all written comments will be reviewed and considered in the final version of the document. It’s important to note that even if approved, the guidelines would not be mandatory for school districts to enact. It would be up to each school district.
If you would like to read the guidelines and leave your comment, you have until May 11.