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Vote Expected Today on Michigan LGBTQ School Guidelines

Voluntary guidelines proposed for Michigan schools would allow transgender students to use school locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity. (Nick Bastain/Flickr)
Voluntary guidelines proposed for Michigan schools would allow transgender students to use school locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity. (Nick Bastain/Flickr)
September 14, 2016

LANSING, Mich. - A vote is expected today on guidelines that could help ensure that LGBTQ students in Michigan are not treated differently than other students.

The State Board of Education is expected to approve voluntary recommendations for schools that were created to reduce discrimination against LGBTQ students and create a safer learning environment for all. Taryn Gal, director of programs for the Michigan Organization on Adolescent Sexual Health, said students can't learn if they don't feel safe.

"This is so important to the mental health, the emotional health, the physical health, social health of all students," she said, "and research has shown it doesn't just benefit the LGBTQ students in a school. It benefits everyone, making it a more inclusive environment."

Gal said LGBTQ students attempt suicide at a much higher rate than their peers, and a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Michigan ranks among the worst states for reported incidents of abuse of these students. Several other states, including New York and Washington, have similar guidelines in place.

One of the most controversial aspects of the proposed guidelines would allow transgender students to use restroom and locker-room facilities that correspond to their gender identity. Some have argued it would raise safety concerns, which Gal disputes.

"If you look at the statistics, it's really clear that the students that are at risk are the 'trans' students, not the other students that are going to be using the bathrooms," she said. "Clearly, data shows that it's more unsafe for these students to be forced to use a bathroom that is not in line with their gender identity."

The guidelines also allow students to be called by their preferred name and pronouns, without parents being notified. Opponents claim it could cause confusion and infringe on parental rights. Supporters counter that the provision also helps protect transgender students from the abuse of unaccepting family members.

The proposed guidelines are online at michigan.gov.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI