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Michigan Joins Fight Against Transgender Directive Despite Issuing Similar Guidance Months Ago 

Michigan Joins Fight Against Transgender Directive Despite Issuing Similar Guidance Months Ago 

In late February, the State Superintendent and chairman of Michigan’s State Department of Education, Brian J. Whiston, issued a guidance with the endorsement of the state’s governor Rick Snyder urging the state’s schools to follow its recommendations on how to best support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) students.

Not only did the guidance clarify that students are to be allowed to use the facilities that correspond to the gender they identify--not are born--with, it also recommended that schools refer to students by their preferred name and gender in school management systems.

"Districts make important decisions regarding policies and practices to promote student safety and support, with equal access to all programs, services, and facilities provided by school districts. It is the position of the SBE [State Board of Education] that students should be treated equally and fairly, free from discrimination, harassment, and bullying based on their real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression,” the guidance reads.

"This commitment to equal and fair treatment includes transgender and GNC [Gender Non-Conforming] students, and applies to all district operations, programs, and activities. Title IX guidance and legal briefs issued by the [Office for Civil Rights] have defined fair and equal treatment for transgender and GNC students in relation to rights in areas such as student names and pronouns, restrooms, privacy, school records, student safety, and dress codes,” it continued.

The guidance also recommended that schools make efforts to adopt policies that protect all students from harassment, provide "developmentally-appropriate information about LGBTQ issues in school libraries and in student and faculty resource centers” and provide professional development to school staff to better understand LGBTQ issues.

Issued months before the Obama administration issued its now-extremely controversial guidance in May, it comes as a surprise that last week Michigan’s Attorney General Bill Schuette announced that he will join "nine other states in a lawsuit challenging federal guidance directing schools to grant transgender students access to restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity,” said

The SBE accepted public comment on the guidance until early May, and consequentially the guidance has not been formally approved. Given these recent events, the guidance is likely to be tabled until further notice- but it serves as evidence of the great disconnect between the State’s Board of Education and state officials.

Michigan joins nine other states now challenging the federal government on the guidance, raising the total of states to 23.

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Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor


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