Michigan Right-Wing Group Wants To Erase LGBTQ+ Sex Ed
(Their definition of “sex ed” extends to pride flags and books with gay characters.)
A recently formed right-wing group in Michigan has been urging parents to sign an opt out form to curtail any discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in the classroom. Great Schools Initiative (GSI) is, in effect, trying to erase LGBTQ+ communities from the school system by silencing any form of education or even acknowledgement made available to students. Instead, they want parents to take part in “Operation Opt-Out” across the state by signing a form they themselves have drafted. And that form is a terrifying document to behold.
GSI referred to a Michigan law that allows schools to teach sex education including “including family planning, human sexuality, and the emotional, physical, psychological, hygienic, economic, and social aspects of family life. Instruction may also include the subjects of reproductive health and the recognition, prevention, and treatment of sexually transmitted disease.” The law also gives parents the chance to opt out of sex education, and this is what GSI wants parents to do... in theory
But the form created by the organization goes beyond simply excusing their child from sex education instruction (as is their right) but asks parents to specifically opt out of “rogue sex ed” that would include not only instruction regarding “gender identity, gender expression, gender assignment, sexual identities, sexual expression, sexual attraction, sexual orientarion [sic], gender fluidity, transitioning, and expicit [sic] sexual activity or behavior,” but non-instructive instances in which a student might be made aware of the fact that LGBTQ+ people exist. The form specifically cites teachers displaying pride flags or stickers; anyone using or discussing gender neutral bathrooms; and students having access to materials that reference “non-biological gender identities or storylines containing any type of non-heterosexual relationships.”
In other words: GSI believes any mention of the LGBTQ+ community or issues that face members of that community should be considered sex and therefore something their children should not encountered at all.
GSI, which was founded in September and is supported by right-wing Chicago-based law firm The Thomas More Society, is investigating which schools in the state they believe might not be offering parents the chance to opt out, and have engaged a legal team to go after specific schools that would cause the “greatest state-wide impact.” A video posted to YouTube from the GSI saw one of its members noting that their plan to take legal action will put enormous pressure on schools trying to offer LGBTQ+ sex education, “And with the ability for us to bring lawsuits, we’ve got a whole system set up simultaneously across many different places. We think we can make a very strong move with this.”
This attempt to erase any kind of discussion of LGBTQ+ sex education or gender identity puts students at risk, according to Brittnee Senecal, a parent and member of Michigan Parent Alliance for Safe Schools.
“What every parent and member of the school community should know is that ‘don’t say gay’ policies and other so-called ‘parental rights’ efforts will harm people and put children’s health and safety at risk,” Senecal said per The Michigan Advance. “The efforts of these hate groups will also worsen a range of real-world challenges that affect young people and their families, including teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and other healthcare-related realities.”
Sex education has been becoming more inclusive in recent years, something experts believe is integral to helping kids understand their own bodies beyond pregnancy prevention. Even so, only about half of states mandate sex education be offered in schools of any kind in the first place (Michigan is not among them). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have found that accurate, comprehensive sex ed has been linked to delay initiation of sexual intercourse, fewer experiences of unprotected sex, and improved academic performance.
While “Operation Opt-Out” is not (yet) an attempt to change the law, this proposed action comes amid a flurry of proposed legislation across the country to limit the rights of LGBTQ+ students. The American Civil Liberties Union is currently tracking 71 such bills across 19 states.