Michigan Education Board Secretly Keeping Parents Out of Gender Decisions for Children*
By Trey Sanchez
On February 23rd, the Michigan State Board of Education quietly (without a press release) issued guidelines to public schools that instructed teachers to allow students to choose their own gender and which bathroom to use all without parental involvement.
The department’s website published its “Statement and Guidance on Safe and Supportive Learning Environments for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ) Students” online and are allowing a month of public comments (March 12 – May 11) that will be “reviewed and considered” before the final version is drafted.
Here are some of the proposals:
- The responsibility for determining a student’s gender identity rests with the student. Outside confirmation from medical or mental health professionals, or documentation of legal changes, is not needed.
- School staff should address students by their chosen name and pronouns that correspond to their gender identity, regardless of whether there has been a legal name change. Upon request, the chosen name and gender should be included in the district’s information management systems, in addition to the student’s legal name.
- Transgender and GNC [gender nonconforming] students have the right to decide when, with whom, and to what extent to share private information. When contacting the parent/guardian of a transgender or GNC student, school staff should use the student’s legal name and the pronoun corresponding to the student’s assigned sex at birth, unless the student or parent/guardian has specified otherwise.
- Students should be allowed to use the restroom in accordance with their gender identity. Alternative and non-stigmatizing options, such as an all-gender or single- user restroom (e.g., staff bathroom or nurse’s office), should be made available to students who request them, but not presented as the only option.
- A student should not be required to use a locker room that is incongruent with their gender identity.
- Students should be allowed to participate in physical education classes and intramural sports in accordance with their gender identity.
Michigan Republicans are calling the move “social engineering,” according to Detroit News. In retaliation, the state House pulled all travel and per-diem funding for the board of education to send “a message” to the majority-Democrat members.
But social justice groups are screaming loud and clear that the guidelines are entirely appropriate. Jay Kaplan of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan said:
“It’s not about keeping secrets from parents. You just have to be very careful and at least have the conversation with the student to make sure this would not harm them.”
Amy Hunter also works for the Michigan ACLU, is a transgender woman, and added this for moral support:
“It feels degrading to have your authentic identity disregarded. These are important things for the students’ self-esteem, their sense of self-respect, their sense of inclusion. It’s a simple fix.”