Talking to kids about school bathroom policies

Posted at 8:08 PM, Aug 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-08 20:08:16-04

People are people, folks are folks and these are just kids who want to go to school and get their education and who occasionally need to use the bathroom just like the rest of us," Mom, Nicole Ellefson said.

As the mother of a transgender student, that's what she wants kids and parents to remember this school year.

"Having a child who is in any way different from the "average" kid always can be worrisome for parents. And this is obviously one of those situations where it is a concern," Ellefson added.

The State Board of Education said these protections are even more important because LGBTQ students are nearly 4 times as likely to commit suicide and twice as likely to be physically bullied at school.

"It's not gonna be their child is gonna come in and say 'hey today I'm gonna use the girl's bathroom.' It's gonna be a process that will be overseen by the parents and will be overseen by the school. And so, it won't be a random thing, it will have been a conscious choice," Ellefson explained.

The principal and teachers will be aware, but if there's a transgender student in your child's school, it's also important you talk to them about it.

"They'll take their cues from you as parents, you're the most important person in their lives," Dr. Jed Magen, Chair of MSU's Psychiatry Department explained. "So if you're relatively matter of fact about it, normalize it, then kids will have less of a problem with the whole issue."

Dr. Magen said it can be a lesson of respect.

"It's only an issue if somebody makes it an issue," he said. "You say something along the lines of all people are different and this is just one way people are different."

A hard conversation for many adults who don't understand.

"I don't really know how to take it myself," one man told us. "So, I guess I have to get understanding myself before I start breaking it down to them and trying to get them to understand."

Ellefson hopes that understanding will help prevent bullying.

"If their child sees another kid or God forbid an adult being unkind to a student about what bathroom they're choosing, encourage them to speak up to the principal or the teacher," she said.

The State Board of Education President tells us he expects a vote on the Board's guidelines in September.

Attorney General Bill Schuette has signed Michigan into a federal lawsuit with nine other states seeking to get the federal policy overturned.