State Board of Ed. to decide on guidelines for LGBTQ students - WNEM TV 5

State Board of Ed. to decide on guidelines for LGBTQ students

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State schools leaders are discussing rules allowing LGBTQ students to express their inner identities in the classroom and it's drawing mixed support and criticism.

"The bigger and more informed the public discussion is, the more helpful it is to understand what's at stake," said John Austin, president of the state Board of Education.

Austin welcomes the big crowd that showed up on Tuesday at the board's monthly meeting. People came in droves to express support and opposition to proposed guidelines for LGBTQ students across the state.

"We need to support and help them get a great education and stay safe and not be ostracized and thrown out of school," Austin said.

The guidelines would allow students to use bathrooms according to the gender they identify with. Those in favor of the guidelines said this debate is about more than restrooms.

Stella Shananaquet is a parent of a transgender student. Her child was born a female and identifies as a male.

"Not hear his birth name blared out over the PA and every student in the class turns around and said 'who is that?' Or have three days of discussion about which parts my kid may or may not have under his pants. You know, it's ridiculous that that goes on," Shananaquet said.

"Let people pee where they want to pee. It's not that kind of serious."

But residents like Ben Bright are against the proposed guidelines.

"Based on the confusion and discomfort it would bring to other students with  a mixture of gender identities in a single locker room for example," Bright said.

The measure also gives students the power to change their identity without consent from the parent. Bright said that's a big mistake.

"There are restrictions put in place about what the school can communicate to a parent, essentially leaving them out of the loop. And a child would need a parent's wisdom in these situations," Bright said.

Austin said the guidelines are subject to change based on the input from thousands of people making their voice heard on the issue. He insists he wants parents to be involved in the board's decision making process.

"We want parents involved. They need to be involved to help their young people and all young people be safe and get a great learning environment that works for all the kids, including our LGBTQ kids," Austin said.

A vote on the guidelines could take place in August. The guidelines would be voluntary. Which means each district would have the choice as to whether or not to implement them.

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