A year after adopting a controversial, state-mandated policy for transgender students, the Loudoun County School Board will soon be required to reverse it as part of another state mandate.
On Friday, Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration announced new model polices on the Privacy, Dignity and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools. The new policies roll back health and safety protections for transgender students mandated by the General Assembly in 2020 and established in model polices in 2021 and give parents more control.
The state Department of Education’s 2021 model polices guided schools to “consider the health and safety of the student in situations where students may not want their parents to know about their gender identity,” and guided schools to address it on a case-by-case basis. They also directed staff to “work with students to help them share the information with their family when they are ready to do so.” The Youngkin administration’s new policy directs that only parents may decide what names or pronouns the school staff may use for children at school, and that parents should be involved in deciding whether their child “engages in any counseling or social transition at school that encourages a gender that differs from their child’s sex, or whether their child expresses a gender that differs with their child’s sex while at school.”
The new policies also direct schools to try to accommodate students’ distinctive needs such as those whose gender identity differs from what they were assigned at birth, by working with parents to identify those needs and meeting them with facilities like single user bathrooms. The previous policies stated school divisions should get rid of gender-based practices in all areas including bathrooms, locker rooms, sports and other activities to avoid excluding, stigmatizing or marginalizing students.
According to the Virginia Department of Education’s website, the new model polices “support positive and safe learning environments for all students while respecting the rights and values of parents.”
Under a 2020 state law, the model policies are subject to a 30-day period of public comment, after which local school boards must adopt local policies consistent with the model policies. Public comment will open Sept. 26. Read the full policies and offer comment here.
In a statement Saturday, Loudoun4All, a PAC nonprofit that champions equity for all wrote the administration “claims that all children must be respected but fails to outline what that actually means for transgender children.”
“While the legality of this policy is in question, it raises concerns for what it will mean for transgender students in Virginia and continues Gov. Youngkin’s attack on LGTBQ+ school children and their families,” wrote Loudoun4All in a statement Saturday. “We call for elected leaders to call out the hate and ensure all students in VA are treated with respect.”
Meanwhile, political action committee Fight for Schools, which has fought against those protections, celebrated the new policies, while Loudoun Democrats decried them.
“The Virginia Department of Education’s new model policy restores parental rights, protects the First Amendment rights of teachers and students, while also providing all students the right to attend school in an environment free from discrimination, harassment, or bullying,” stated Fight for Schools Chair Ian Prior. He described the existing protections as “radical” and told the school board to “get to work” adopting the new policies.
And Loudoun County Democratic Committee Chair Lissa Savaglio said in a press release “a child working through transgender questions shouldn’t be the subject of public policy. A person’s gender identity has no bearing on the larger community or public safety. These young people should enjoy a zone of personal privacy; government should steer clear.” Savaglio went on to say the policies are “seeking to erase the identities of transgender youth solely because Youngkin and his fellow right-wing zealots refuse to believe facts documented by scientific evidence.”
Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA-10) joined the press release from the county Democratic committee.
“This is a vile and disgusting attack on vulnerable trans kids,” she stated. “Bullying children to score cheap political points is despicable. The Governor should be ashamed.”