LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan State Board of Education normally operates without a lot of public attention, but the elected board has been the center of a controversy surrounding a proposal to adopt guidelines for dealing with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students’ issues in public schools.
In Lansing Tuesday, more than 100 people turned out to a board meeting to support or oppose the proposed recommendations that include everything from professional training on how to handle LGBT students’ needs to bathroom and locker room etiquette.>>PDF: Proposed guidelines
There was plenty of emotion at the meeting.
“When I confided to my best friend that I thought I may be gay, she turned around an told the entire 8th grade. By the end of the year, only one of my fellow classmates was speaking to me,” one former student, who supported proposal, the told the board.
Another man opposed the idea on a fundamental level:
“By proffering this, we’re actually pushing a form of child abuse,” he said.
The battle lines seem clearly drawn — even if the plan by the state school board isn’t.
Lupe Ramos-Montigny, a board member from Grand Rapids, stressed that even if the board does pass something, it will be a set of guidelines rather than a law or mandate.
“These guidelines have been designed and they’re under scrutiny right now because we have testimony,” she said. “Also we as board members are going to go through the guidelines and possibly change some of the wording.”
Board President John Austin is actively supporting the move and suggested that some who are opposed are stirring up fears where none should exist.
“Some of this is just deliberately fanning fears of transgender people,” Austin said. “But some of it is perhaps not acknowledging that it’s a reality, it’s not a choice and there have always been transgender people among us and children.”
There were dozens of people on both sides who wanted to testify and the board said they would hear them all, three minutes at a time.
The final day for citizens to submit comment on the recommendations online is close of business Wednesday. The state says it will consider all comments — more than 15,000, by some estimates — before deciding what to do about the proposal.
The board will take no final action until August at the earliest.