Michigan State Board of Education (USA)

Discussion on proposed LGBTQ policy at 50:46

On February 23, 2016, the Michigan State Board of Education (“SBE”) presented its Statement and Guidance on Safe and Supportive learning Environments for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) Students.  SBE purports this was prepared out of its commitment to reducing the impact of high-risk factors and providing equitable resources and access to quality educational opportunities to meet the needs of all students.

To this end, SBE states students should be treated equally, fairly, and be protected from discrimination based on their real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.  Public comment on this Statement and Guidance is open for only six weeks, opportunity to comment ends April 11, 2016.  SBE expects to approve this on May 10, 2016.

On-line comments may be submitted here

SBE applies the following definitions to their Statement and Guidance:

  • Sexual Orientation – a person’s emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attraction to other people.
  • Gender Identity – a person’s deeply held internal sense or psychological knowledge of their own gender, regardless of their biological sex.
  • Gender Expression – the manner in which a person represents or expresses gender to others, often through one’s name, pronouns, behavior, clothing, haircut, activities, voice, mannerisms, and other distinctive cultural markers of gender.

SBE does not provide a definition of Gender.

Gender Identity Watch knows there is considerable disagreement and misunderstanding about the definition of Gender within the general public, the medical community, policy makers, and feminist scholarship.  World Health Organization defines Gender as socially constructed characteristics of women and men – Sex Role Stereotypes.  Gender Identity Watch posits that Sex Role Stereotypes (Gender) are cultural expectations which are harmful to both girls and boys.

In the Statement, SBE recognizes that not all LGBTQ students are equally affected by the risk factors of non-heteronormative expectations and non-gender conforming behaviors and presentations. Persons of color and those with disabilities are specifically recognized as additional causes of discrimination and harassment.

Therefore, the Michigan State Board of Education encourages districts to:

  1. Adopt, implement and enforce protective policies for students based on real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression.
  2. Provide related training for all district staff, board members, and school teachers, administrators, health staff, and support staff.
  3. Support formation of extracurricular LGBTQ clubs and alliances in middle and high school in accordance with local policies.
  4. Provide appropriate and meaningful family engagement and support for LGBTQ.
  5. Encourage respect for the human and civil rights of all people across the curriculum.
  6. Provide developmentally-appropriate information about LGBTQ issues in school libraries and resource centers.
  7. Collect and review data to identify disparities that create barriers to a safe and successful learning experience for LBGTQ students.
  8. Designate a building-level staff member who is conversant in issues related to sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.

Gender Identity Watch supports the above broad recommendations as fair and supportive of all students.

Additional guidance and recommendations for transgender and gender non-conforming students have been specified by SBE that are attributed to U.S. Department of Education Title IX guidance and legal briefs.  SBE does not provide an analysis of how its statement and guidance might impact girls and women, who have been specifically protected as an historically disadvantaged sex class under U.S. Department of Education Title IX. The U.S. Department of Education has worked to undermine Title IX for years now.

In presenting this Statement and Guidance, SBE dictates that 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.  Parental/guardian engagement is not required.  SBE notes its overall goal is to maximize inclusion and social integration of transgender and gender non-conforming students while minimizing exclusion and stigmatization.

It is Gender Identity Watch’s position that many of the specific recommendations from the SBE violate the Title IX rights of girls and women to be free from sex discrimination, sexual harassment and a hostile environment.

Further, we observe that none of these additional, specific recommendations promote the inclusion, security or support of Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual students.  To the contrary, we suspect that Michigan State Board of Education support and promotion of Transgender policies over the rights of sexual minorities represents a substantive attempt at conversion of student homosexuality to heteronormativity via the concept of internally inverted gender.

Michigan Department of Education Memo

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