Public Comment Period Ends May 11 for State Dept. of Ed LGBT Policy

Renaissance_Unity_Brown_TopPublic Comment Period Ends BubbleTea AdMay 11 for State Dept. of Ed LGBTQ Policy

The Michigan Department of Education is accepting public comment on policy that would provide LGBTQ students in Michigan with more consistent educational experiences and protections.  The guidelines being proposed include:

1) Adopt , implement, and enforce  policies  protecting students from harassment,  violence, and discrimination based on their real or perceived sexual orientation,  gender identity ,  and/ or  gender expression (e.g.,  enumerated  nondiscrimination,  anti- bullying, and anti -harassment policies) inclusive school policies and administrative guidelines regarding implementation  provide clear guidance for school  administrators, teachers,  support  staff, families, and students  to ensure all members of the  school community have similar, POWELLad_01consistent expectations for what is considered appropriate  conduct  in school and at school -related activities.  Those same protections should also be afforded to LGBT staff to provide a diverse workforce and role models who are supported.

2) Provide professional development opportunities on issues affecting LGBTQ students to all district staff and board members.  These opportunities should extend beyond teachers, administrators, and school mental health staff, to include anyone who interacts with students (e.g., coaches, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, and administrative support staff).  MDE conducts introductory and advanced workshops to help educators and other school personnel understand, assess, and improve school safety and climate for all students, including those who are LGBTQ. Districts should encourage and support staff attendance at these and other role -appropriate professional development opportunities. MBREW draft one

3) Support  the formation of extracurricular student -led  clubs ,  such as Gay -Straight  Alliances or  Gender and Sexuality Alliances (GSAs)  in middle and high schools , in  accordance with local policies .  In accordance with the  Equal Access Act, the GSA should  be  afforded the same rights and privileges  as other student -led  extracurricular  clubs  in    all  areas , such as  appointment  and compensation   of    advisors,  publicity for  events , and  inclusion  on school websites.  These groups  have been shown  to improve school climate for  all students, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression , and are protective for all students, both members and non -members . The y can serve different functions, including supporting potentially isolated and at- risk LGBTQ students and their allies, educating the larger school community, and advocating for a more inclusive school climate.

4) Provide appropriate and meaningful family engagement and support.  Since  parental acceptance and family support are  key determinant s of LGBTQ student health,  student support teams, staff, and community partners should provide resources to help  families and  UrbaneAd_04students locate  information,  affirming counseling, and support services .  School  mental health professionals (school counselors, school social workers,  and  school  psychologist s) play  an important role in helping students evaluate their academic and  family situations, support systems, and resources, and  have the necessary  training to  conduct  mental health and substance use assessments, as needed.  Schools should provide a welcoming environment for diverse families, including those that are headed by LGBTQ parents/guardians, and are encouraged to educate all families in their community about this SBE statement and guidance.

5) Encourage respect for the human and civil rights of all people, including those who are LGBTQ, across the curriculum.  Research shows that inclusion of LGBTQ topics in curricula is correlated with students feeling safer in school, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Schools are encouraged to  have  relevant and age – appropriate content  throughout  the curriculum, in areas such as  social  studies,  English  language arts, creative arts,  and  health  education,  including sex education .garden16_chad_matt

6) Provide developmentally -appropriate information about LGBTQ issues in school libraries and in student and faculty resource centers. School libraries should include a selection of high -interest LGBTQ books and media.  Computer -filtering software should not inhibit age -appropriate access to medical and social information.  Schools are encouraged to review the computer- filtering protocol to ensure that students and other school community  members can access information related to LGBTQ youth, local and national resources, and  LGBTQ health information.

7) Collect and review data to identify disparities that create barriers to a safe and successful learning experience for LGBTQ students. LGBTQ students are disproportionately at risk for experiencing bullying, truancy, violence, substance use, unaccompanied homelessness, discipline treatment, and involvement with the juvenile justice system. Districts are encouraged to analyze available attendance, suspension, expulsion, bullying, student risk royal_servicesbehavior, and school climate data to promote practices that improve LGBTQ students’ attendance and participation in school.  The  United  States  Office for Civil Rights (OCR)  requires every public school in the nation to report data on key  education and civil rights issues , including  incidents of bullying based on sexual orientation  and  sex (which can include gender – or gender  identity -based bullying).

8) Designate a building -level staff member who is conversant in issues related to sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Students report feeling safer at school when they know where to go for information or support regarding LGBTQ issues, or when they have a trusted teacher or school staff person available. This person may assume a leadership role in working with LGBTQ students and their families, educate the school community regarding these topics, serve as the point person for the building, work closely with the district Title IX Coordinator, and be a liaison to MDE.

It also has guidelines to support transgender and gender nonconforming students, including using chosen names and pronouns, updating student records, privacy and confidentiality regarding disclosures, access to restrooms and locker rooms consistent with gender, access to sports and physical education, dress code fairness, and encouraging districts to look at all gender-based programs to make sure that only those with a clear and sound educational purpose continue.

The MDE is accepting public comment on the guidelines through May 11.  Comments can be posted directly on the MDE website or can be given by fax or by mail.  The website allows users to comment publicly, and the responses vary widely. For more information and the opportunity to comment go to http://everyvoicecountsmi.org/136/public-comment-on-the-state-board-of-education-draft-statement-and-guidance-on-safe-and-supportive-learning-environments-for-lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-and-questioning-lgbtq-students.

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