Emotions rise during comment on LGBTQ policy

Posted at 6:46 PM, May 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-11 11:13:02-04

The Michigan State Board of Education drafted a policy earlier this year that aimed to give schools guidance.

It is called the “State Board of Education Draft Statement and Guidance on Safe and Supportive Learning Environments for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LBGTQ) Students.”

The goal: to make sure lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender kids feel safe at school. Now it is at the epicenter of a culture war.

On Tuesday, the Board of Education listened to public comment. Hundreds of people came to the meeting to listen or speak their minds. They offered hours and hours of public comment hoping to influence board members.

Isabel Fessler is only 13 years old, but she found the courage to speak about how hard school can be.

"I am bullied every day, pushed into the lockers,” she says.

Why? Because she shows support for her friends.

"I am shoved up against the lockers for wearing a rainbow button on my backpack,” said Isabel.  “I can only imagine how hard it is to be an LBGT student.”

Isabel says the drafted board policy makes a statement: All kids are accepted in Michigan Public Schools.

Taking a look at what the policy does:

It calls on school staff to learn tolerance for LBGTQ kids, ensure kids aren’t bullied, and respect gender identity.  It says school staff should call kids by their preferred pronoun and name, without requiring parental permission.

Many focused on the fact the policy would call on schools to allow students to use the restroom that matches their gender identity.

"As a Christian, when I have my daughter coming to me asking why they want the boys to use the same restroom as her, it is a very hard discussion,” said Deborah Linder.

She and other parents against the policy raised concerns about safety of having children that at birth were different genders in the same restroom if one is transgender.

Pastors raised concerns about morals.

“Jesus made everyone male or female,” said Pastor Reid Nelson of the Mackinac Bible Church. “That is what I believe.”

"These LBGT policies and ideals we do not concur with and we do not agree with,” said Douglas Levesque of the Bible Nation Society.  "By supporting this we are proffering a form of child abuse."

It is a debate in which there seems to be no middle ground. Is gender simple - defined by God? Or sometimes more complicated?

One transgender man said he told his parents he was a boy when he was only 5 years old. He says it isn’t a matter of right or wrong. He is who he is.

“We have our own ideas of gender and what gender is not, when it is actually really complicated,” said James Maddock, a transgender man. "If we would just listen to one another we could go a lot farther.”

The board could decide on the policy as soon as next month. Public comment will be accepted on-line through Wednesday.