The administration of Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin released new policies on Friday night that restrict the rights of LGBTQ students in the state’s educational institutions.
According to the “2022 Model Policies,” students will only be allowed to participate in school activities and use restrooms that “match the sex they were assigned at birth” without their parent’s consent.
During the review of the previous “model policies” adopted under former Democratic Governor Ralph Northam’s administration, the Virginia Department of Education claimed that these policies promoted a “specific viewpoint aimed at achieving cultural and social transformation in schools” and ignored parental rights and “legal and constitutional principles.”
The Department of Education stated that the 2021 Model Policies on the Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools were “hereby withdrawn by the Department and shall have no further force and effect” after the publication of the 2022 Model Policies.
The use of locker rooms, changing rooms, and restrooms by transgender students was a contentious issue. The previous 2021 model policies mandated that school districts and teachers accept and use students’ gender pronouns and identities, and transgender students should be allowed to use facilities that matched their gender identities.
“sex” is defined as one’s biological sex, and “transgender student” is defined as “a public school student whose parent has requested, in writing, due to their child’s persistent and sincere belief that his or her gender differs from his or her sex, that their child be so identified while at school.”
This means that schools must respect parental wishes regarding their children’s use of preferred names, nicknames, and pronouns, access to school counseling, and gender expression in the classroom.
Model policies and guidelines for use by Virginia school systems were published in 2022. One of the examples provided stated that schools cannot require staff to refer to transgender students by their names or genders if doing so would violate the “constitutionally protected rights” of the staff member.
Tanner Cross, a teacher in Loudoun County, Virginia, was suspended last year for comments he made about transgender students and staff during a meeting of the school board. Cross claims that his right to free speech was violated.
Teachers are also prohibited from withholding from parents any relevant information regarding a student’s gender, according to another set of regulations.
Lawmakers on the Democratic side of the aisle have voiced concern that the new policies amount to “outing” children.
The policies have been criticized as a “despicable display of bigotry and ignorance” and a “false promise of protecting Virginia students” by U.S. Representative Gerry Connolly.
In the meantime, Republican lawmakers have praised the new measures.
James Bergida, a candidate for the Senate in Virginia, said the changes in policy regarding transgender students send “the message through loud and clear” that parents matter.
For his efforts to “protect kids and defend parental rights,” Del. David LaRock expressed gratitude to Youngkin.
The 2022 Model Policies are the minimum standards that each school board must meet. The Virginia Regulatory Town Hall will soon be posting a draft of its model policies for public review and comment.