Transgender student speaks on federal directive

Posted at 5:26 PM, May 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-13 17:26:03-04

The Michigan Board of Education came under fire for drafting guidelines for how school districts should treat transgender kids. Now, the Obama Administration is taking a stand.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Education sent out a letter to schools. The letter says the U.S. Department of Education Civil Rights Office has been bombarded with questions from parents, teachers, and school leaders. They want to know what rights do transgender kids have under the law.  So the Department of Education teamed up with the Justice Department, reviewed the law and now is making sure it is clear.

Transgender kids do have civil rights that allow them to live as their authentic selves.

When Cecil Connelly heard about the directive the Obama administration is giving schools, calling on them to respect the gender identities of transgender kids, he felt hope.

"You can’t fix everything with one comment or whatever, but you can help people over time help people to try to understand,” said Cecil, a tenth grader at Ferndale High School who is also a transgender boy.

The letter says when schools take federal funds, they agree not to treat kids differently based on their sex. Federal Courts have ruled that a student’s gender identity is their sex. They should be allowed access to activities and facilities that match their gender identity.

School staff should call kids by their preferred name and pronoun per the letter. That is something Cecil says some of his loved ones struggled with when he told them he is a transgender boy.

“I think it will be easier for people to have guidelines to follow,” said Cecil.

“You don’t want to break Title Nine. You don’t want to put your school district in court for something you should be doing anyway. It is nice that the state and federal government have said schools - this is what you need to do,” said Blake Prewitt, Ferndale Schools Superintendent.

This comes days after the State Board of Education heard public comment on a policy that would call on Michigan schools to respect the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender kids.

Many voiced concerns that doing so didn’t provide moral guidance, or violated religious rights of kids who don’t think for example- transgender girls should be in the girls bathroom.

"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.

"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."

Connelly says the message he has is, being transgender is an innate part of who he is.

“I see a lot of people saying it is a choice, which it isn’t,” said Connelly.