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Protecting and Respecting All Children Involves Parents, Educators, and Students

LANSING – Protecting and respecting all children takes the partnership of parents, educators, and students, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) expressed today.

Family engagement is foundational to work with and on behalf of children, and collaborative relationships among parents, families, educators, and school staff are necessary to support the health, wellbeing, and academic success of every student.

“Parents, educators, school staff, and the community work together to support and educate children,” said State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice. “Making space in our schools for all our students, including our LGBTQ children, is vital so kids can learn and grow in safe and positive environments. The involvement and partnership of parents and educators are always encouraged.”

“Parents are our children’s first teachers and schools are committed to strong partnerships with parents,” Dr. Rice said. “Students are best supported when a strong home-school partnership is developed and maintained.”

To ensure the academic success and safety of every student, school staff work closely with parents and other family members to meet the needs of their children. LGBTQ+ students are among those who benefit from additional support. School staff across Michigan have expressed an overwhelming desire to learn more about how they can protect and support LGBTQ+ students and focus on the important work of educating all students.

In response to requests from local school districts across Michigan for professional development that equips schools to be safe and supportive for LGBTQ+ students, MDE conducts professional development sessions to help school staff create a school culture and climate where teachers can focus on teaching and all students can thrive. These sessions include an overview of state and federal laws, research, and best practices, as well as discussions of the nuanced situations that districts encounter.

School staff are encouraged to work closely with parents to meet the needs of their LGBTQ+ students because of the central role that the support of parents and other caregivers plays in a young person’s life. Research has shown that affirming homes and families are associated with a reduction in the risk of suicidality, as well as an increase in health, wellbeing, and academic outcomes.

“Living in a small, rural, conservative area gives a much different perspective,” said Stella Shananaquet, a parent from Adrian. “We are ever so thankful for supportive educators, including our district superintendent, who did the right thing and supported us before there was professional development. We hope that there comes a day when all LGBTQ students can feel that supported.”

“Our transgender son knows that his school is a safe place for him, and that the educators in his school respect him for who he is,” said Pete Tchoryk, a parent of a transgender child from Dexter. “His school is filled with compassion. 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.”

“In our district, we've been doing some very intentional work on diversity and inclusion, using multiple strategies to engage parents in our school community,” said Steve Laatsch, superintendent of Saline Area Schools. “Saline Area Schools is working closely to partner with parents with a variety of viewpoints to reach solutions that respect the perspectives of parents while also creating the most effective learning environments for all our students, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Saline Area Schools has worked hard to respect the views of everyone in our community while facilitating civil conversations that will support all our students. We have appreciated our ongoing partnerships with state and local thought leaders to build bridges between the district and community groups.”

“Having the opportunity to be part of professional learning through MDE has given our staff increased knowledge in this area,” said Piper Bognar, superintendent of VanDyke Public Schools. “We have an understanding of the unique challenges that students who identify as LGBTQ+ may face, and how to provide safe and supportive learning spaces. The manner in which the material was presented was well-received by staff with a range of viewpoints and increased staff engagement and understanding.”

Parents, educators, support staff, and community members all have roles to play in making sure our children are safe and protected and have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential, Dr. Rice said.