On May 9, 2023, the Michigan Board of Education (Michigan Board) voted to pass the “Michigan’s State Board of Education Resolution in Support of Michigan’s LGBTQ+ Students, Staff, and Gay Straight Alliances or LGBTQ+ Clubs”. While such resolutions are not binding and hence, not required to be followed by local school districts, this resolution is very concerning because it is in direct conflict with the state law. In other words, the Michigan Board is misguiding our school districts to violate the law.
The Michigan Board’s promotion of Gay Straight Alliances (GSA) and LGBTQ+ student clubs during its May Board meeting and enactment, directly violated MCL 380.1299(1)(b) “Limited open forum; equal access and opportunity; definition” which states:
“There is no sponsorship of the meeting by the public school, the government, or either's agents or employees.”
The Michigan Board is a governmental agency.
Moreover, under § (4)(d) of this law “sponsorship” is defined “to include the act of promoting, leading, or participating in a meeting.”
What does this mean? It means that the Michigan Board and all school districts, as governmental entities, must adhere to viewpoint neutrality and are explicitly prohibited from promoting student forums, a/k/a “student clubs.” Similarly, school districts that ignore the law by adopting similar student clubs promoting resolutions, will be at risk of legal action. Laws are enacted for a reason. Here, MCL 380.1299(1)(b) is designed to prevent governmental bodies or agencies from promoting their respective “political agendas” by using their meetings or offices to use as limited public forums as political platforms. Even if their bodies claim they can do so, it must give others similarly situated or having opposing viewpoints the same opportunities and support.
Nevertheless, the immediate issue about the Michigan Board’s Resolution is its content. The Resolution is about gender identity and sexual orientation. Because gender identity and sexual orientation are inclusive of reproductive health, it is about sex education. The Michigan Board’s Resolution puts our school districts at risk. It is a promotion of rouge sex because it t endorses the observance of events such as Pride Month within our public school system:
“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED the Board supports that certificated Michigan Public School District employees should have the academic freedom to discuss this Resolution during class time provided it is age-appropriate; and students are to be made aware that District counselors, when available can discuss the subjects contained in this Resolution;” and
“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Board shall recognize October as LGBTQ+ History Month, June as LGBTQ+ Pride Month, March 31st as International Transgender Day of Visibility, and approve students’ participation in the Day of Silence, a demonstration against bullying and harassment of LGBTQ+ students in schools held on a Friday in April every year;”
Observance of events such as LGBTQ+ History Month, June as LGBTQ+ Pride Month, International Transgender Day of Visibility, and the Day of Silence are activities with gender identity and sexual orientation at their essence. The Michigan Board Does not have the authority to approve students’ participation in such events or to require student participation in observance of such events. Yet, it encourages all students to participate in events that may run afoul of their own individual beliefs (without discriminating against the LGBTQ+ community). And, the Michigan Board wants school districts to actively engage and adopt the Board’s Resolution. Yet, the law demands that only parents and legal guardians of the minor child has the legal authority to approve their students' exposure to and participation in sex education.
If and when a school district chooses to engage in any discussions or events related to sex education, they must do so in accordance with Michigan’s sex education laws. Such legally established parameters include, but are not limited to:
Containing sex education to sex education classes and courses;
Using only SEAB recommended and school board approved curriculum and materials when providing sex education;
Providing sex education only by instructors qualified to teach sex education;
Providing parents notice of any and all sex education instruction provide by the school at any time and all grade levels; and
Most importantly, accepting written parental opt-out notices.
Notably, the Michigan Board has drawn school districts and parents into another legal morass. Student clubs such as GSA and other LGBTQ+ clubs, likely violate MCL 380.1299 (4)(a). The law states that such clubs are limited public forums and hence, cannot directly relate to a school’s curriculum.
Ironically, the Michigan Board’s own resolution cites the Federal Equal Access Act (EAA) of 1984. The EAA only permits NON-curriculum related student groups, in a federal law that applies to our schools. The topics covered, the conversations had or anticipated, and the information provided in the GSA and LGBTQ+ student clubs is in fact directly related to a school’s sex education curriculum. Hence, the actions of the Michigan Board and any action of a school district in sync with the Resolution, puts into question the legality of the GSA and similar clubs.
Great Schools Initiative, GSI, agrees that no student should be bullied, no student should be victimized, and no student should be harassed. Fortunately, both our governments and our districts have laws and policies in place to provide protection from these harms. GSI will continue to educate parents, students, and politicians about these laws and fight to ensure these laws are enforced. We have a steadfast commitment to protecting student safety, student privacy, and parental control.
Here, GSI must ask that the Michigan Board of Education recognize its responsibility to be a beacon of exemplary behavior in legal compliance of existing law, in dedication to student academic achievement, and in safety for all - not just some. GSI strongly recommends that the Michigan Board regain its political balance to refocus and fortify efforts to support and enable our public schools to provide a quality academic education in a safe school environment to ALL of Michigan’s students regardless of economic status, race, creed, religion, or beliefs.
As such, GSI strongly advises the Michigan Board to immediately revoke its “Michigan’s State Board of Education Resolution in Support of Michigan’s LGBTQ+ Students, Staff, and Gay Straight Alliances or LGBTQ+ Clubs.'' The Board’s acts are ultimately harmful to the very nature and purpose of education, including inclusivity. By favoring one community, the Board has squashed the legal rights of others, not only for the students, but also for the parents. The Board ignores existing laws and seeks school districts to also ignore laws for the sake of the Board’s own agenda to the peril of those districts.
The Board must recognize its own limitations under the law and act accordingly. The Board must revoke the resolution and inform the school districts of its revocation and why. Instead, the Board must understand and appreciate, that while there must be malice to none; as Lincoln once wrote,
“[The law should] become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay of all sexes and tongues and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.”
Here, the Board has lost its legal compass. It must change course. GSI requests the Board to revoke the May Resolution.