Michigan GOP gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon called for the resignation of the state’s superintendent Tuesday over his defense of so-called gender-affirming training videos from the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) that were unearthed last week. Dixon’s demand came after conservative activist Christopher Rufo revealed the videos showing MDE training teachers on how to accept and address students’ gender transitions, even if parents are not on board.
“Today, I called for the resignation of State Superintendent Michael Rice,” Dixon said. “He doubled down when sickening training videos were exposed. He is unfit for office. Parents will not have information hidden from them. [Governor Gretchen Whitmer] is silent about it all.”
Today, I called for the resignation of State Superintendent Michael Rice.
He doubled down when sickening training videos were exposed. He is unfit for office. Parents will not have information hidden from them. @gretchenwhitmer is silent about it all. pic.twitter.com/ryK3MqSNU2
— Tudor Dixon (@TudorDixon) September 20, 2022
Last week, Rufo released training videos from the MDE and accused the department of encouraging “teachers to facilitate the sexual transition of minors without parental consent.” In one video, Kim Phillips-Knope, the head of the LGBTQ+ Students Project discussed how to talk with parents about a student’s suicidal thoughts without “outing” the student. She also encouraged teachers to allow the student to “guide” the discussion.
“If you’re sort of into that area of like, ‘you’re going to hurt yourself or somebody else,’ and you have a duty to report — I mean, the law is really clear about that — you can also talk to parents, though, about like that ‘your kid is having suicidal thoughts,’ without outing them, without saying why,” said Phillips-Knope. “You can say, ‘We have some concerns, your child has shared this,’ [but] I would one-thousand percent recommend working with the student to let them guide that process.”
In another clip, a trainer instructs a teacher to “go with what the kid says” when using a child’s pronouns.
“They’re the best experts on their lives. They’re the best experts on their own identities and their own bodies,” Amorie Robinson argued.
When a teacher asks how to respond to a student who claims to have “she/he/they/them” pronouns, the trainer responds adamantly: “Go with what the kid says. They’re the best experts on their lives. They’re the best experts on their own identities and their own bodies.” pic.twitter.com/d3lHn883e5
— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@realchrisrufo) September 14, 2022
Rice, Michigan’s superintendent since August 2019, defended the training and argued that some circumstances require teachers to play a significant role in a student’s gender transition.
“[N]ot all parents are supportive when they discover or are told that their child is gay or transgender,” Rice wrote in an opinion piece Monday. “In the professional development sessions, we encourage discussions with parents about these issues whenever possible. Parents’ supportive behaviors help protect against suicidality and other risks and help promote health and wellbeing. When parents and students are not on the same page, school staff can play a critical role in helping to bridge the gap.”
The Whitmer administration released a statement on the MDE training videos, urging the department to “continue bringing parents’ perspectives into the work you do.”
“We urge you to review your trainings to ensure they comply with all applicable regulations, maintain department guidelines, and are reflective of best practices,” Tricia Foster, Whitmer’s chief operating officer, wrote to Rice.
Dixon has made education issues an important part her campaign as she tries to strike a nerve with Michigan parents. The GOP candidate even had Virginia Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin campaign with her, the conservative who won his 2021 election in large part because of his fight for parents rights in education.
Dixon accused Whitmer of remaining too quiet on the issue of parental rights in education, and if elected, the Republican said she would take a different approach.
“As governor, I want to be responsible for the outcomes and held accountable for the results,” Dixon said, surrounded by parents. “Today, I am first and foremost calling for the resignation of State Superintendent Michael Rice.”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a free hotline for individuals in crisis or distress or for those looking to help someone else. It is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.