The State Board of Education this month released a set of guidelines and recommendations it says will help provide a safer, more welcoming environment for students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ).
The Board posted the guidelines online and is expected to vote on them in May, after a period of public comment. So far, the number of public comments has reached more than 5,000 and there is more than a month remaining until the deadline.
Adding to the debate will be a soon-to-be-introduced piece of legislation by State Senator Tom Casperson of the 38th District in the Upper Peninsula.
Michigan Radio’s Kate Wells described what Casperson’s bill seeks to accomplish:
State Senator Tom Casperson, a Republican from the UP, says he’ll introduce a bill requiring Michigan students to “only use bathrooms and locker rooms matching their birth” sex, unless they have “written consent from a parent or guardian.”
Even then, transgender student would be barred from locker rooms or bathrooms “of the opposite sex … if those facilities are in use or could be in use,” according to a release from Casperson’s office Tuesday.
Instead, the proposed law would force trans students to use a staff bathroom or single-occupancy restroom.
Casperson joined Stateside to talk about the bill, which will be introduced when the legislature returns from break.
“I look at it as just common sense,” said Casperson. “It’s going to still allow for the student, with the parent, to identify the problem … that if a student is struggling with their identity, clearly, we should be listening to what they have to say. Then, look at ways to make accommodations to accommodate that situation. But what we’re pushing back on is the idea that we’re going to put children together in bathrooms and locker rooms of the opposite sex.”
“If my school district suggested they would allow a young boy to go into a locker room where my young daughter is, there’s no way I would be comfortable with that as a parent,” he added. “It’s not that I don’t want to help the individual that’s struggling, but doing that doesn’t seem to solve a problem, it creates a problem.”
According to Casperson, the other aspect of the guidelines that he finds troubling involves parents of LGBTQ children being kept out of the loop.
“There’s a sense … that a student can go and get some counseling and guidance from somebody within the school, but as this is all taking place, there is no parental involvement whatsoever, and we believe the parents should be involved in these decisions,” said Casperson. “It’s not that we don’t make some accommodations for these children, but those ideas and suggestions need to come, in part, not just from the counselor at school, but with parental involvement as well. So the bill would require that as well. The student, with the parent, can go make these requests and then work through the problems with the school together.”
Unfortunately, there are going to be situations where a LGBTQ child may face an abusive situation at home if they are outed to their parents. In cases like that, Casperson compared that to a young girl who gets pregnant and is considering an abortion but is unable to involve the parents out of fear of abuse or of being kicked out of the house.
Casperson said “the courts can rule on that.”
Listen to the full interview below to hear Casperson’s reaction to the possibility of a backlash from corporations and businesses, as well as legal challenges if the law passes.