Children who attend Michigan’s public schools require their parents’ permission before taking an aspirin, leaving the building or going on a field trip.
But the State Board of Education doesn’t think parents have any business participating in their child’s choice of gender or sexual orientation.
Guess what? Parents are outraged.
The State Board has put together proposed guidelines for creating “safe and supportive” learning environments for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning students. These policies were the brainchild of board President John Austin and signed off on by Superintendent Brian Whiston. The guidelines (seven pages worth) were put together at the end of February but weren’t readily visible on the Michigan Department of Education’s website, nor did the department send out a press release.
Now that the word has gotten out, parents and other concerned citizens are making their voices heard. The education department oddly has a separate site for public comments (everyvoicecountsmi.org), but plenty of individuals are finding their way to it. At least 3,500 have commented since March 14..
People feel strongly about this, and most of the comments revolve around common themes. Parents are upset that schools could leave them out of such integral conversations about their children’s very identity and how they express it. And parents, teachers and others are up in arms over how these rules could impact children who aren’t gay or transgender.
The board must address these concerns. Austin says he backs the guide because he cares about the well-being of LGBTQ students; he’s cited statistics about how this student population is more vulnerable as the rationale for why these students deserve additional support at schools.
Yet these policies go too far and place the comfort of a very small percentage of Michigan students over all others. Here are some highlights:
■“School staff should address students by their chosen name and pronouns that correspond to their gender identity.”
■“Transgender and gender nonconforming students have the right to decide when, with whom, and to what extent to share private information.” That includes parents.
■“Students should be allowed to use the restroom in accordance with their gender identity.” The same is true for locker rooms and sports teams.
It doesn’t take much imagination to see how such policies could cause serious problems. No one wants to think of their little girl stuck in a bathroom or locker room with a male student — just because that student identifies with another gender.
Republican lawmakers, who already don’t have much faith in the Democrat-controlled State Board or education department, have expressed their disdain as well. “The board has no business trying to take away parental rights,” said Rep. Lana Theis, R-Brighton.
Education officials on Friday said they were extending the time frame for public comments by another month, so the State Board no longer plans to vote on the LGBTQ policy at its May meeting. The board has defended the proposal, saying that some schools requested the guidance. And it maintains that schools would only be encouraged to adopt the policies — not required. But government usually finds a way to force its policies by tying them to funding.
These guidelines ostracize parents and force a politically correct, liberal agenda on families around the state. That’s not fair at all.