Michigan Senate passes resolution condemning LGBTQ+ teacher trainings – The Hill

Story at a glance

  • Michigan senators on Monday approved a resolution condemning videos from the Michigan Department of Education’s (MDE) LGBTQ+ Students Project that advise teachers they are not required to disclose a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity with their family.

  • The department’s training videos drew sharp criticism from other state government officials after clips were shared online and labeled “radical gender theory.”

  • MDE has defended the training videos.

Michigan senators on Monday voted to adopt a resolution condemning instructional videos distributed by the state Department of Education this month that educate school faculty and staff on LGBTQ-inclusive student policies.

The resolution, introduced by Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R), condemns the department’s training videos on “student gender orientation” and intends to “reaffirm the fundamental right of parents to direct the education of their children.”

The videos, part of a training for the 2021-2022 school year from the Michigan Department of Education’s (MDE) LGBTQ+ Students Project, drew sharp criticism from state officials and parents after clips were shared online by conservative writer Christopher Rufo, who denounced them as “radical gender theory” and accused MDE of using state resources to “push a destructive ideology onto public-school children.”

Michigan senators including Shirkey took issue with a portion of the training advising teachers that while they do have a legal obligation to report to an LGBTQ+ student’s family if the student is experiencing suicidal thoughts, they do not have an obligation to share the student’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

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“This should alarm and concern every single parent in this state,” Shirkey said Monday on the Senate floor, urging his colleagues to vote in favor of the resolution.

“This shouldn’t need to be said, it shouldn’t require resolution or a vote, but here we are in 2022 having to reaffirm that it is parents – not bureaucrats – who should ultimately make educational and health decisions for their children,” he said.

The MDE training videos have been criticized by other state government leaders, including the office of Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Whitmer’s Chief Operating Officer Tricia Foster in a letter to State Superintendent Michael Rice said the videos went beyond the department’s scope and argued that the perspectives of parents should be better prioritized.

“We urge you to review your trainings to ensure they comply with all applicable regulations, maintain department guidelines, and are reflective of best practices,” Foster wrote in the letter, obtained by Bridge Michigan.

On Tuesday, Tudor Dixon, Whitmer’s Republican opponent in the state’s gubernatorial race, called for Rice’s resignation.

“Our schools have lost their way,” Dixon said during a news conference held in front of the Department of Education building, the Detroit Free Press reported. “Somewhere along the way, radical political actors decided that our schools are laboratories for their social experiments and our children are their lab rats.”

Rice has no plans to resign, a department spokesperson told the Detroit Free Press.

MDE defended its training program in a Sep. 16 news release, where it called accusations made by Rufo that the department was secretly instructing teachers how to facilitate gender transitions “patently false and deliberately divisive.”

“Professional development for educators on this topic has long been offered by MDE and is not secret,” the department said.

Peter Tchoryk, the parent of a transgender student in Dexter, Michigan, said in the news release that his son feels safe and respected at school because of welcoming educators.

“His school is filled with compassion,” Tchoryk said. “In addition, staff members have knowledge, resources, and confidence to support him. They have been equipped with the tools they need to support our son, so that he may flourish academically, socially, and emotionally.”

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