State Board of Education approves voluntary LGBT guidelines

LANSING — Education officials in Michigan are moving forward with new guidelines to help school administrators and teachers maintain a supportive learning environment for students identifying as LGBT.

The State Board of Education voted six to two in favor of revised guidelines designed to share best practices for addressing academic and safety concerns for those students. The guidelines — which serve as voluntary recommendations rather than mandates — were introduced back in February and approved after a period of public comment provided additional feedback for revisions.

“What that means moving forward is we have [an] approved set of best practices that districts can use to craft their own local policies if they wish. They can certainly adopt the State Board of Education policy as their own,” said Bill DiSessa, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Education.

“The facts are that LGBT school children are twice as likely to not attend school because they are afraid, twice as likely to get bad grades because they’re not in school, five times as likely to have attempted suicide because of the kind of — really sort of violence and bullying that happens to LGBT kids — but all of that changes when schools implement the kind of things that are in our recommendations,” said John Austin, President of the Michigan State Board of Education.

Austin added that the guidance offers what he calls ‘very good common sense ways’ for schools to deal with issues of locker room and bathroom usage that can provide privacy and comfort for all students.