New policy aimed at making LGBT students school environment safe

By Renata Terrazzan

In Lansing on September 14, the State Board of Education approved a new guidance policy aimed at making LGBT students’ school environments a safe and understanding place.

The decision was 6-2 and greatly aided by the 13,000 comments made by the public during a public comment period right before the vote. Once it was decided that the new guidance would be introduced to the schools, the State Board began drafting the guidelines. They enlisted the help of mental health professionals, doctors, social workers, educators, parents, and education stakeholders, to make sure the guidelines were fitting for the school system.

The actual statement contains nine pages with four sections. The first section is a series of shocking statistics like, “LGBT students are 2.3 times more likely to be threatened or injured with a weapon on school property than their non-LGBT peers, 2.3 times more likely to skip school because they feel unsafe, and are 4.5 times more likely to commit suicide.” These statistics show just how urgent and necessary this policy is.

The next section includes a series of policies and activities that every teacher has to do in order to make sure that the students feel at ease and are able to succeed. Support the formation of extracurricular student-led clubs that has to do with these social justice issues, offering familial support, and enforcing policies in order to protect these students

The third section is guidance specific to transgender and gender nonconforming students. These include a list of common misconceptions about these students and an explanation to help educators understand how to support them, like names and pronouns, locker rooms and changing facilities, and restrooms. This list of recommendations explains that students should be called the pronouns with which they identify with and if they do not have a specific gender to use “you” and “they.” This goes hand in hand with locker rooms and restrooms; they can use the room with which gender they identify with or if they wish for increased privacy they may use single-user restrooms or have an adjusted changing schedule.

The last section is one of great importance. This section is a list of terms and their definitions. Many of the words in the statement may have been confusing to some educators, so this section explains what each of them means. It also highlights similar words, that many people use interchangeable, even when they should not be.

Walled Lake Central’s Assistant Principal Eric Henderson said, “LGBT rights are human rights, so I don’t always see them as separate. This is critically important so that individuals are safe, valued, and feel that they can contribute to the school. These guidelines help us support that purpose.”

Overall, this was a huge step forward for the school system. Hopefully, this initiative will be constantly enforced in classrooms and will show the non-LGBT students the importance of this kind of respect and understanding.