Think Progress: Michigan
Think Progress: Wisconsin
Last month, the Michigan Board of Education voted 6-2 to approve a new set of guidelines for the state’s schools that protect LGBTQ students from harassment and ensure that they are respected in accordance with their gender identity. The vote came after months of pushback from conservatives, AKA anti-trans bigots, and after the school board made some revisions; this new version, though, is still a huge step forward:
Schools must explicitly protect students from any kind of harassment or discrimination based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression.
All district staff and even board members should be trained about issues impacting LGBTQ students.
Schools should support the formation of gay-straight alliances.
Curricula should be inclusive of LGBTQ topics.
Students who come out as transgender should have their gender identity respected, including the name and pronouns they use, the facilities they use, and the athletic teams on which they play.
Trans students should not be outed to their parents if that would endanger their health, safety, or well-being.
These are great steps toward making LGBTQ students feel accepted, and protected from harassment, at school.
And to show you how one state can be more ignorant and intolerant of differences … these guidelines pushed through in Michigan are nearly identical to protections set up for Texas, before a federal judge in that state blocked the federal government from enforcing these protections nationwide.
And while these new Michigan guidelines are based on the federal interpretation of Title IX, the Texas injunction could not stop the Board from implementing them … because, at least in Michigan, right is right, and all students, whether you choose to understand gender identity and sexual orientation, all deserve the right to the same education in schools and the same treatment in schools.
It’s called respect, Texas, and Michigan is doing it.
And while that win in Michigan was for all LGBTQ students, there was a smaller, though no less important victory, in Wisconsin where, thanks to a federal judge in that state, 17-year-old Ashton Whitaker won’t have to worry when he uses the bathroom any longer.
Last month U.S. District Judge Pamela Pepper ruled that the Kenosha Unified School District must stop its discriminatory bathroom policy that singled out Ashton, and allow him to use the bathroom that aligns with his gender identity while the case moves forward:
“For the first time this year, I feel like I can actually make it through my senior year of high school just like any other boy in my class. It’s awful going to school every day with the constant stress and stigma from being segregated from my peers and from administrators watching my every move just because of who I am. I’m so relieved I’ll be able to just go to class, apply to college, and graduate without worrying if I’ll get in trouble for using the restroom.”
Prior to Pepper’s ruling, Ashton wouldn’t use any bathroom at school, for fear of reprisals, and that’s what caused his family to file suit against the district. In response, and in all communications, the school constantly referred to Ashton by his female birth name and using female pronouns; the school prohibited him rooming with other boys on school field trips, and tried to block him from running for prom king.
And yet the most vile part of the Kenosha Unified School’s vendetta — and it was, and is, since the case is not yet resolved, a vendetta — was when they proposed making him wear bright green wristbands or stickers so that staff could easily identify him and police his bathroom usage.
I seem to recall similar badges used in concentration camps in WWII to identify the homosexuals; I would have hoped we’d come further than that …
And the school did go further, saying that the only way they would ever accommodate Ashton would be if they saw proof of a surgical transition even though, at seventeen, Ashton is one year shy of the age limit for such a procedure.
All because Ashton Whitaker wants to pee … and be referred to by his name.
Kenosha Unified School district has indicated they will appeal Pepper’s ruling, so Ashton’s senior year is not really in the clear. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals could stay the injunction and require him to continue enduring the discrimination while the case proceeds, something the Supreme Court recently did in the case of Gavin Grimm, a Virginia high school senior, who has been fighting Gloucester County School District for the right to pee.
Things are moving, things are changing, the march goes on …