The State Board of Education voted today to adopt voluntary guidelines to help schools with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning students.
The guidance is intended to help schools create a safe and supportive learning environment for LGBTQ students.
The guidance was voted on after more than three hours of public comment where approximately 60 people were given three minutes to speak on the issue. Those who spoke included school principals, state legislators, students, and medical professionals.
Several parents of LGBTQ students spoke in favor of the guidance, including Joe Adcock. Adcock has a transgender son and said while his son’s school is very supportive, not all schools are.
“We’ve found a lot of schools don’t have this in place,” he said. “And they don’t allow the children to be themselves and it puts them at a great risk for drug abuse and suicide and just not being able to be who they really are.”
But others were not convinced that the guidance was necessary. Some say LGBQ students don't need additional protections. Others, like Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, say adopting this guidance will harm non-LGBTQ kids.
“This isn’t going to reduce bullying,” Colbeck said. “This is going to increase bullying. In particular against people of faith that stand up for what they believe. I think there is going to be a significant increase in bullying against them.”
The guidance, which passed with six votes in favor and two against, addresses issues like bathrooms and locker rooms, student privacy, and parental involvement.
President of the State Board of Education John Austin joined us today to talk about why these guidelines are needed, and how this new set of practices and policies differs from its first iteration.
"One hundred fifty thousand of our young people are LGB, and some growing thousands are comfortable being who they are -- transgender -- and those young people are much more likely to be at risk of being put upon, violence, assault, bullying," Austin said.
"They're also not engaged in learning when they're afraid to go to school -- twice as likely to drop out of school, skip school because the environment is not supportive, five times as likely to have attempted their own life. So we have much to do to make sure a significant number of our kids are able to engage with school and be accepted, and be supported to get a great education like everybody deserves."
*This post has been updated