Amy Hunter, Coordinator of the ACLU Transgender Advocacy Project, today issued the following statement addressing the State of Michigan Board of Education Statement and Guidance on Safe and Supportive Learning Environments for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ) Students.

We strongly urge that the Michigan Department of Education adopt in full the draft guidelines from the State Board of Education and that local school districts statewide implement them.

Every student has the right to learn in a safe and accepting school environment. A supportive, respectful learning atmosphere for transgender students gives them the equal opportunity for success that every student deserves. Parents, schools, and lawmakers working together as a team is the best way to ensure that every student, regardless of their gender identity, will receive the support they need to achieve. The draft guidelines from the State Board of Education will promote an enriching educational experience that makes achievement much more possible for transgender students.

Studies show that the healthy expression of gender identity is an appropriate and typical aspect of human development and plays a crucial role in the ability of a young person to succeed both at school and in broader society. The State Board of Education draft policies identify resources and suggestions for supporting all students’ safety and well-being. Adoption of the SBE guidelines will lead to better education outcomes for all students and will assist in the healthy development of transgender students in particular.

Furthermore, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education has officially asserted that transgender students are protected from discrimination under Title IX, a federal civil-rights law that prohibits sex discrimination. Specifically, the guidance states that “Title IX’s sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity and OCR accepts such complaints for investigation.”

Failure to adopt the SBE draft guidelines could lead to federal action against districts on behalf of transgender students and a loss of crucial federal education funding.

More importantly, adopting and implementing the State Board of Education guidelines will help ensure that all Michigan students receive the sound, quality educational experience they need.