LGBTQ guidelines won’t do any good
From the best of motives, the State Board of Education has proposed LGBTQ guidelines for Michigan schools. But there is no evidence that any of the proposed recommendations will make a difference.
The guidelines claim that LGBTQ students endure bullying and violence, and often feel unsafe to learn, but a recent survey found that 90 percent of all fourth- through eighth-graders report being bullied. The most frequently bullied K-12 students are the obese, who are 65 percent more likely to be bullied than their normal-weight peers.
Some adults have warned of the danger of labeling children as LGBTQ even prior to puberty, and encouraging children to label themselves. Creating categorizations determined by the whims of children — with schools keeping and hiding records from parents in some cases — allows subgroups to be institutionalized with later, significant complications. Labeling and expecting children to ignore the labels is self-defeating.
The guidelines claim that LGBTQ students in Michigan are targeted for physical violence and experience a more hostile school environment than their non-LGBTQ peers. The Centers for Disease Control’s annual Youth Risk Behavior Surveys state that 19-29 percent of gay and lesbian students and 18-28 percent of bisexual students experienced dating violence in the prior year; 14-31 percent of gay and lesbian students and 17-32 percent of bisexual students had been forced to have sexual intercourse at some point in their lives.
Because students self-select their socialization, this violence seems primarily to be a dysfunction within members of the subgroup itself and outside the control of the school environment. This also seems to be characteristic of the adult LGBTQ community. The Huffington Post reports that “partner abuse manifests itself in the LGBT community, which experiences domestic violence at equal rates and sometimes higher than those of the rest of the population (25-33 percent of the LGBT population experiences domestic violence in its lifetime).”
All children struggle in developing a social identity, balancing inner drives and outside authority, and in seeking attention, favorable or not; LGBTQ students are not unique in their search for boundaries. Gender non-conforming students appear to have worse results with believing that rules and expectations which apply to others do not apply to them.
Like their peers, LGBTQ students can form their own cliques which exclude, antagonize and harass others, as well as encourage dysfunctional or health-endangering behaviors among themselves. We learn bullying as well as smoking from our peers, not because the adults encouraged it, but because of the lack of adult supervision and intervention.
The guidelines would restrain adults from predictable responses, but still hold them responsible for student actions as well as the unforeseeable consequences of student gender identity claims.
Only good intentions could explain the State Board majority’s willingness to advocate policies that would deny connection between a child’s gender identity and physical state, overlook the confusion and uncertainty that causes, and blame the outcome on prejudices and biases within society.
Richard Zeile is a member of Michigan’s State Board of Education.