Transgender students in Michigan just got a big helping hand from the state

Hours of heated testimony didn’t stop the Board from doing right by LGBTQ students.

CREDIT: ISTOCKPHOTO/BRIAN MCENTIRE
CREDIT: ISTOCKPHOTO/BRIAN MCENTIRE

Wednesday afternoon, the Michigan Board of Education voted 6–2 to approve a new set of guidelines for the state’s schools that protect LGBTQ students from harassment and ensure that they are respected in accordance with their gender identity.

The Board first considered a draft of the guidance back in March and received incredible pushback from conservatives. They made some revisions, but the final approved version still provides robust protections for LGBTQ students. These include:

  • Schools must explicitly protect students from any kind of harassment or discrimination based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression.
  • All district staff and even board members should be trained about issues impacting LGBTQ students.
  • Schools should support the formation of gay-straight alliances.
  • Curricula should be inclusive of LGBTQ topics.
  • Students who come out as transgender should have their gender identity respected, including the name and pronouns they use, the facilities they use, and the athletic teams on which they play.
  • Trans students should not be outed to their parents if that would endanger their health, safety, or well-being.

The guidance notes how these accommodations will improve health, well-being, and educational outcomes for LGBTQ students.

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Just last month, a federal judge in Texas blocked the federal government from enforcing similar protections nationwide. Though the Michigan guidance is based on the federal interpretation of Title IX, the Texas injunction did nothing to stop the Board from implementing its own guidance.

Some Republican state lawmakers suggested legislation this summer resembling North Carolina’s HB2 that would impose restrictions on transgender students. Though the legislature is controlled by Republicans, the bill was originally sent to a committee where it was expected to die, but it’s unclear if the Board’s actions might catalyze a new interest among conservative lawmakers who want to reverse the policy.

The vote followed several hours of heated public testimony, including from state Sen. Patrick Colbeck (R), who warned that the guidelines will open school districts to lawsuits, and from state Sen. Gary Glenn (R), who described transgender children as “suffering the delusion they are of the opposite sex.”