BY AJ Trager
The Michigan Organization On Adolescent Sexual Health is calling for Michigan residents to fill out a recent Michigan Department of Education survey with LGBTQ youth in mind.
The State Superintendent and the State Board of Education say they are committed to making Michigan a “Top Ten” education performing state over the next 10 years and are asking residents to complete a quick comment-based survey by Nov. 1 on how Michigan can amend its policies to reach that goal.
In response to this outreach initiative, MOASH circulated an online mailing calling for survey participants to bring awareness to the statewide need for LGBT inclusive school curricula, implementation of enumerated statewide anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies pertaining to LGBT youth, and doing away with zero tolerance policies.
“We felt it was critical to address LGBT students in this mailing because, as we have been delving more into this issue with recent projects, it has become overwhelmingly apparent that this is a population of students that often times face additional barriers to education due to school climate (e.g., victimization and harassment) and, because of these barriers, are significantly more likely to not attend school or engage in behaviors that would affect their health and, thereby, their ability to learn (e.g., risky sexual behaviors, substance use, consider or attempt suicide),” Outreach Coordinator for MOASH Taryn Gal wrote to BTL in an email.
The MDE survey asks about specific areas of improvement including what goals Michigan should focus on, what are the current policies that get in the way of that goal and what polices are needed to expedite the progress towards the goal.
According to a Michigan Department of Education 2013 study, “Sexual Minority Youth More Likely To Experience Multiple Risks,” 6 percent of Michigan high school students have engaged in same-sex behavior. That 6 percent of youth are two and half times more likely to have been bullied, five times more likely to attempt suicide and nearly five times more likely to use injection drugs in comparison to youth who have only engaged in opposite-sex behavior. These students are at high risk for being targets of violence and bullying and have disproportionately high rates of unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, depression and substance abuse.
“It is abundantly clear that by making all curricula more LGBT inclusive, all students benefit. Inclusive school environments create a safer, affirming and more supportive climate. For the same reasons that greater acceptance of all kinds of diversity benefits all students, faculty and the greater school community, LGBTQ inclusive curricula has been shown to foster a culture of acceptance where all students, many with intersecting identities, are healthier and more able to learn,” Gal said.
The average LGBT youth hears 26 anti-LGBT slurs per day, with a third of them originating from an administrative staff member. What can Michigan do to prevent the further harm of its LGBT youth?
MOASH would like to see all schools include relevant LGBT content to all subjects about contributions LGBT people have made to history and culture; have Michigan implement enumerated statewide anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies pertaining to LGBT students; and to do away with zero tolerance policies in the state which are often used to set the “stage for student disenfranchisement, academic failure, dropout and the potential for criminalization,” which LGBT youth are disproportionately affected by.
MOASH is currently working with Ann Arbor Public Schools’ Sexual Health Education Advisory Committee, Ann Arbor’s Sex Ed Advisory Board and the Michigan Department of Education’s Sexual Health Initiative for Transformation AAPS District Leadership Team to develop a toolkit similar to the LGBTQ Youth Inclusivity Toolkit for Michigan Health Teachers that is applicable to all lessons and courses, not just sexual health education.
The LGBTQ Youth Inclusivity Toolkit for Michigan Health Teachers provides strategies and resources recommended for making sexual health education lessons more inclusive to LGBT youth.