BY AJ TRAGER
LANSING – A Republican lawmaker from the Upper Peninsula wants to ban trans students from using bathrooms in accordance with their gender.
State Sen. Tom Casperson says once the Michigan Legislature reconvenes in mid-April he will introduce a bill requiring Michigan students to "only use bathrooms and locker rooms matching their birth" sex, unless they have "written consent from a parent or guardian."
The proposed bill comes as a response to the Michigan Department of Education's Draft Guidance document, "Safe and Supportive Learning Environments for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Students," which seeks to provide Michigan schools with completely optional suggestions to support LGBT youth in schools. The MDE is currently seeking public comment on the proposed optional guidance at http://www.everyvoicecountsmi.org/.
"We are disappointed that state Sen. Casperson is introducing or planning to introduce a bill that has already failed in state after state. The reality is that there are LGBT students in our schools and under federal law they have the right to attend those schools free of bullying and harassment," said Deputy Director at Equality Michigan L. Michael Gipson. "The Michigan Department of Education is responding to requests from schools that are struggling to make sure that they are adhering to federal law. These are schools that are trying to do the right thing and address the rights of LGBT students and ensure that they have a safe and supportive educational environment."
The completely optional guidance outlines recommendations for schools to adopt affirming LGBT policies that will protect LGBT youth from harassment, call for students to be addressed by their chosen name and pronouns that correspond with their gender, provide support for the formation of gay-straight alliances in middle and high schools, and prohibit students from being forced to use locker and bathrooms incompatible with their gender identity.
"It is hard to believe that a state board, which is clearly out of touch with Michigan residents, got assistance from equally out of touch unelected bureaucrats to develop such a document to fundamentally change Michigan's public education system without the public's prior knowledge or consent," said Casperson in a March 29 release. "In the pursuit of social justice, this so-called draft guidance document creates numerous problems, from the elimination of parental authority and notification to threatening student safety and beyond. My bill would stop this policy dead in its tracks."
Casperson's bill has yet to be drafted but the proposed legislation would not permit trans students to use restrooms or locker rooms in accordance with their gender if the facilities are in use and would force trans students to use a staff bathroom or a single-occupancy restroom.
"The goal here is that the students feel affirmed and safe in schools, without the distractions. There's no distraction in calling a student what it is they want to be called and identifying as, so that they can go about the business of learning. But what we do know is that if you're targeting them with specific bathrooms or invading their privacy in doing gender checks, we know that is a distraction and in fact leads to youth dropping out of schools," Gipson told BTL.
ACLU of Michigan LGBT special projects attorney Jay Kaplan says that the legislation is unconstitutional and told MLive that, if passed, the state would potentially face a lawsuit by the ACLU.
"I think it's a mean-spirited, misguided piece of legislation, and it's clearly in violation of the law," says Kaplan. "This kind of legislation, it's built on lies that have been peddled by opponents of LGBT rights — that somehow transgender students engage in predatory behavior, and that somehow transgender students, just by their very being, are a threat to the public safety."
BTL left a message with Casperson's secretary but at press time had not received a call back.
Online Public Comment to MDE Guidance
Some of the comments are positive, but a quick survey of the http://www.everyvoicecountsmi.org/ page shows that an overwhelming number of Michigan citizens oppose the MDE guidance despite the benefits that can be obtained from affirming the lives of Michigan's youth. The MDE has extended open public comment until May 11. At press time nearly 6,500 comments had been submitted.
"By permitting all students to determine which sexual orientation they identify without intentional parental knowledge places their authority above their parents. Specifically permitting girls and boys to use each other's bathrooms 'at will' sets the stage for pervert actions galore," Peter VanderWel, a former teacher, wrote April 4.
"I am horrified at the thought of this. My daughter goes to a huge public school and I will not stand for her to be placed in a situation whereby she goes into a restroom to change her tampon and there is a 'boy' who decides that he wants to be called a girl because he is confused, and he is in there using the same restroom. Single restrooms are fine in those situations, and I don't want my child to have to be 'forced' to deal with someone whose parents are letting him decide (who) he wants to be. This is an absolute waste of taxpayers' monies. Children need to be parented and not left to decide what sex they want to be. Schools have no business assisting the child in their confusion. I will not teach tolerance of this to my child. If forced in this situation, I will pull her out of the public schools as I cannot accept that this philosophy be shoved down her throat. She plays women's lacrosse and I expect only those with a true vagina will (be) allowed to be on her team, NOT someone who wishes that they had one. Utterly ridiculousness. Stay out of the gender conforming business and stick to teach(ing) reading, writing and arithmetic," Diana Barman, a parent, wrote April 4.
"1. You are opening the door for rapes to occur. Who will be in these restrooms, locker rooms, to police what is going on? Rapes happen at all ages, and by all ages. 2. When or if a rape happens, their (sic) will be law suits. 3. It will tell a child, it is ok to go behind your families back. Sneak, its (sic) OK. 4. Doing this will make a lot of people either home school their children or virtual school them. 5. You are putting so much responsibility on teachers, they have enough to do. 6. Also there is the out side activities to be addressed, who will police the sports bathrooms etc. NO this is wrong, they need their own bathrooms and locker rooms, and teachers need to not worry who is called what today," Peggy a mother, grandmother and preschool teacher wrote April 4.
"Let me make this very clear. If I find out my school has let some transgender sick bastard in the dressing room of my daughter people will lose their lives. I am done tolerating the twisted sick people of Obummer nation and now you want to violate my child too? Hell no…death will follow I promise you that," Brian said on March 31 at 5:38 p.m.