BY BTL STAFF
The State Board of Education voted 6-2 to adopt a guidance on how Michigan schools can create safe learning environments for all students, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“This guidance is the result of months of hard work by pro-equality advocates and organizations from across Michigan working together and speaking with one voice. It’s one more example of what our community can accomplish when we stand united in support of full equality,” said L. Michael Gipson, Deputy Director at Equality Michigan in a statement.
“At a time when far too many politicians are trying to score political points at the expense of the LGBTQ community, Equality Michigan commends the State Board, particularly President John Austin, for their unwavering support of this important guidance. When our opponents tried to threaten and intimidate these pro-equality public officials, they stood strong. The importance of their commitment cannot be overstated. As far too many of you are all too aware, anti-LGBTQ bullying, harassment, and violence are pervasive in our schools.”
The State Board of Education and the Michigan Department of Education developed the guidance at the request of schools and educators asking for recommendations of best practices in creating more supportive learning environments for LGBTQ students, who are at greater risk of suicide, and are not succeeding academically absent a supportive school environment.
The guidance document, according to the board, would not be mandated and local school districts would be making their own decisions on their local policies. The guidance would merely offer options for districts to consider, if they choose to. Local school districts each would decide to do what they believe is appropriate and helpful for all of their students.
The Draft Guidance document was initially composed by a work group consisting of parents, teachers, students, administrators, social workers, psychologists, local school board members, attorneys, and other stakeholders.
The broad policy, first introduced in March and revised in August, includes guidelines on things such as allowing students to use restrooms based on their gender identity, ensuring staff are trained to address the issues facing such students, and supporting the creation of clubs such as gay-straight alliances. Educators also would be urged to allow students to be referred to by the name and gender of their preference while at school.
“This evening, we’re celebrating this important win, but there’s a great deal of work left to be done. We’ll need to work hard to ensure that these recommendations are implemented in local school districts across Michigan. We’ll need to remain vigilant and prepared to respond to legislators who oppose LGBTQ equality and who have already introduced two North Carolina-style bathroom inspection bills here in Michigan. We’ll need to build on today’s success to grow support for other pro-equality policies, including an all-important amendment to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to ban anti-LGBT discrimination,” said Gipson.
“I want to thank each and every one of you who sent an e-mail, made a call, or drove to Lansing to speak in support of this safe schools guidance. We could not have done this without you and you can be sure that we’ll be looking to you for that same energy and commitment in the fights to come.”