State Education Department issues new model policies on treatment of transgender students

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The Patriot

The Virginia Department of Education on Friday released new model policies for the treatment of transgender students in the Commonwealth’s public schools.

The policies – named the “2022 Model Policies On The Privacy, Dignity and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools,” are subject to a 30-day public comment period, which begins Sept. 26. After that 30-day period, the policies go into effect.

In accordance with 2020 state law, city and county school boards throughout Virginia must adopt policies that are “consistent with” the education department’s new model policies. Local school boards may also adopt policies that are “more comprehensive,” as long as they are consistent with the state’s policy.

Following Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s election in 2021, the state’s Department of Education embarked on what it called a “thorough review” of the 2021 Model Policies adopted by the department during the Gov. Ralph Northam administration.

The department found the 2021 Model Policies promoted a specific viewpoint aimed at “achieving cultural and social transformation in schools.”

The department this year also found that the 2021 Model Policies “disregarded the rights of parents and ignored other legal and constitutional principles that significantly impact how schools educate students, including transgender students.”

With the passage of the 2022 Model Policies, the department withdrew the 2021 policies, which it states, “shall have no further force and effect.”

The new policies require minor students to be referred to by the name and pronouns “appropriate to the sex appearing in the student’s official record – that is, male pronouns for a student whose legal sex is male, and female pronouns for a student whose legal sex is female.”

The policies say a student’s participation in school activities and the use of school facilities like bathrooms and locker rooms should be based on their biological sex.

“Single-user bathrooms and facilities should be made available in accessible areas and provided with appropriate signage, indicating accessibility for all students,” the policies state.

The new policies also say school divisions may not encourage teachers to conceal information about a student’s gender from his or her parents.

Also, the policies state “Parents must be informed and given an opportunity to object before counseling services pertaining to gender are given.”

Macaulay Porter, a spokesperson for Gov. Youngkin, said in a statement the updated policies “deliver on the governor’s commitment to preserving parental rights and upholding the dignity and respect of all public-school students.”

Youngkin’s desire to give parents more say in their children’s public education was a major factor in his election in 2021 over former governor, Terry McAuliffe – a Democrat.

During one of their debates, McAuliffe’s campaign was derailed after he made the now-famous comment, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

Youngkin’s “Parents Matter” message resonated with voters in Virginia and in Pulaski County where the Republican candidate won with 75 percent of the county’s vote.

School board meetings in Pulaski County last year were dominated by discussion of the transgender student policy from March until mid-August when the board adopted a policy that was consistent with the state’s model policies at the time.

The board voted 4-1 to adopt the policy, with Ingles District representative Penny Golden casting the lone “no” vote.