LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – In the past few months many states have considered a proposal that would restrict students to using school bathrooms based on the gender listed on their birth certificates. Proposals like that have been called among the most anti-LGBT proposals in recent U.S. history. On Friday the U.S. Department of Education lowered the hammer with a stern warning to schools across the nation.
Friday morning’s announcement makes it clear that policies like abiding by birth certificate gender status are not acceptable to the federal government because such a determination comes from the child’s anatomical sex-not gender identity. And since schools receiving federal funding are bound by Title IX’s sex discrimination policies, the new guidelines should not be taken lightly.
The announcement, which comes jointly from the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education says public schools cannot make students prove their gender identity. Additionally, says the policy, schools should ensure access to sex-segregated activities and facilities in line with the student’s’ gender identity. For some it’s exactly what’s needed.
“Every child in Michigan should have that equal opportunity to succeed at school. But you can’t do that if you’re being harassed or bullied or discriminated against… if you’re feeling unsafe,” says Equality Michigan’s political director, Nathan Triplett.
He explains that those challenges can be as simple as barriers to students’ daily routines.
“Not making this an issue where students become a target for simply trying to go through the day and use a basic bodily function and get on with learning.”
But others see the guidelines as a government overreach.
“They say they want to protect children, but I say that’s a law enforcement issue,” says Doug Levesque.
Founder and director of the Bible Nation Society, Levesque worries such policy could replace parental input with what he calls “social engineering.”
“The student can have protections from the school, from their parents. In other words, if they want a particular pronoun used or a particular name used, they can do so without their parents’ knowledge.”
According to Nathan Triplett, such perceived change is really just part of someone’s natural growth as a person.
“It’s just like anything else when you’re coming into your own. Different people develop at different ages.”
Levesque calls this confusion.
Clearly, there’s little consensus even on the definition of transgender.
6 News reached out to several school districts and education organizations, including the Lansing School District, Michigan State University and the Michigan PTA Friday – and some admit not fully understanding the term “gender identity.” But on the whole, these groups seem to want all students to feel safe. Specifically, Lansing Public Schools says students can use whichever bathroom with which they identify. Michigan State University echoes this sentiment and also says it has altered bathroom and housing options on campus.
We may only be at the first step of a long debate.