Sunday, March 27, 2016

Protecting health, safety, and learning

The Michigan Department of Education has issued a memo (PDF) recommending (not requiring) how schools in the state treat LGBTQ students. Their goal is to reduce the impact of high-risk factors and provide equitable resources to meet the needs of all students. And all students should be treated equally, fairly, and be protected from discrimination. LGBTQ kids still face challenges that threaten their health, safety, and learning opportunities.

The memo documents the extent of bullying done to LGBTQ kids and the consequences of it. So, yeah, the MDE recognizes guidelines like this are needed. The recommendations:

* Adopt and enforce anti-bullying policies.

* Train all school staff who come in contact with students about issues affecting LGBTQ students.

* Support extracurricular clubs, such as the Gay-Straight Alliance.

* Engage the family in supporting their LGBTQ children.

* Encourage respect for the rights of all people, including those who are LGBTQ, across the curriculum.

* Provide age-appropriate LGBTQ materials in school libraries and faculty resource centers.

* Collect and review data to see how things are going.

* Designate a staff person in the building to be the trusted and safe one for students to go to.

And for gender non-conforming kids:

* Use names and pronouns preferred by the student.

* Use those names and gender markers in unofficial student records (class rosters, yearbooks, etc.).

* Don't out the student to parents.

* Allow students to use the restroom that matches their gender identity and provide alternate and non-stigmatizing locker rooms.

* Allow students to participate in phys-ed classes, intramural, and interscholastic sports according to their gender identity.

* Students should be allowed to express their gender in their clothing within the parameters of the school's dress code.

* Evaluate all gender-based programs and practices and keep only those with a sound educational purpose.

All this is great stuff. I'm delighted to see the Michigan gov't issue such guidelines.

Surprising nobody, the Michigan GOP is having a fit.

House Speaker Kevin Cotter called the memo, "poorly written and poorly thought out proposal that takes away the rights of parents and upsets the privacy and safety of Michigan’s children."

In case you can't read between the lines, he is upset that parents aren't told of their child's orientation or identity unless the child approves. He is also hinting at the idea that transgender kids in bathrooms are predatory (in schools these kids are the victims).

State Senator Patrick Colbeck said, "Over 50% of our third-graders can't read. Math proficiencies for some schools hover in the teens. Now we have these new guidelines that are going to further divert our educators from their core mission — that of teaching out kids." He called on colleagues to take a stand "against this social engineering."

Nope, these guidelines will create an environment where LGBTQ kids can be taught. They're an integral part of the core mission.

The budget subcommittee responsible for the MDE voted to strip out $24,500 for travel and per diem expenses for the state board.

The memo is now in the public comment period, and the time for that has been extended to May 11. Many of the over 4,300 comments there so far are the dreck we expect from conservatives. A big theme is that these policies infringe on the rights of straight people. Please consider adding your own voice as a counterweight. I did. You might also contact your state representative and senator. I'm sure all of them have online contact pages.

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