New LGBTQ guidelines; providing healthy and equal environment

New LGBTQ guidelines; providing healthy and equal environment

Image created by Abigail (Oli) Grenke

Abigail (Oli) Grenke, Journalist

The Michigan State Board of Education (SBE) passed guidance regarding Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning (LGBTQ) students. It urges Michigan schools to implement anti-harassment policies, address transgender students by their chosen name and corresponding pronouns, add LGBTQ topics “throughout the educational culture,” and more.

“The guidelines are very new. They have just risen this year, especially because marriage equality became a thing,” said senior GSA+ member Jon Pace.

The guidelines cover a large range of problems involved with LGBTQ people and their daily lives. It allows transgender students to use locker rooms, bathrooms and other gender-segregated spaces that match their gender identity, not their biological sex assigned at birth. It states that schools should allow gay-straight alliance (GSA) clubs, provide “appropriate and meaningful family engagement and support” and even change a student’s personal school record (including their gender and name) if requested.

Many people seem to agree that these policies, among others, are positive changes.

“[The guidelines] bring [LGBTQ students’] concerns forward, and people are just paying attention and becoming aware,” said Health and Consumer Sciences teacher Mrs. Dede Rush.

However, the SBE did face criticisms and strong disagreement during the months of writing the guidelines. They were eventually approved with a 6-2 vote.

“Although we’ve always had people in our culture who are part of [the LGBTQ] community, it is at the forefront more than ever before,” said Psychology and English teacher Miss Tracy Dryer. “Changes like this are new to people not a part of it.”

These guidelines are not rules or mandates and are entirely optional. Most students would not be affected if the school adopted them, because they are already closely followed.

The school already has a GSA+ club, and anti-bullying policies have been implemented.

“Right now, Northwest is very progressive compared to a lot of  schools in the state,” said Rush.

Although they are optional, the guidelines are important to consider. LGBTQ students are more likely to be bullied, harassed, and develop depression or other mental health challenge, according to nobullying.com.

The SBE believes that these guidelines will help LGBTQ students focus and thrive in school, because they create a positive and supportive environment.

“We want to continue to make sure that our students are safe,” said Dryer.

Students of a sexual and/or gender minority have higher rates of suicide attempts. Transgender people have a much higher risk of being murdered, just because of their gender identity, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and The Human Rights Campaign.

“[The SBE] are really concerned about the well-being of all students,” said Rush.

According to the guidelines, providing a healthy and equal environment will help students achieve academic greatness. They are intended to be a step in the right direction.

A PDF of the guidelines can be found on www.michigan.gov.