Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Education
State Board of Education
Guidance Document Change: Every day, throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia, educators and school leaders work to ensure that all students have an opportunity to receive a high-quality education. As a part of that work, educators strive to meet the individual needs of all students entrusted to their care, and teachers work to create educational environments where all students thrive. The Virginia Department of Education (the “Department”) recognizes that each child is a unique individual with distinctive abilities and characteristics that should be valued and respected. All students have the right to attend school in an environment free from discrimination, harassment, or bullying. The Department supports efforts to protect and encourage respect for all students. Thus, we have a collective responsibility to address topics such as the treatment of transgender students with necessary compassion and respect for all students. The Department also fully acknowledges the rights of parents to exercise their fundamental rights granted by the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to direct the care, upbringing, and education of their children. The Code of Virginia reaffirms the rights of parents to determine how their children will be raised and educated. Empowering parents is not only a fundamental right, but it is essential to improving outcomes for all children in Virginia. The Department is mindful of constitutional protections that prohibit governmental entities from requiring individuals to adhere to or adopt a particular ideological belief. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees religious freedom and prohibits the government from compelling speech that is contrary to an individual’s personal or religious beliefs. The Department embarked on a thorough review of the Model Policies Guidance adopted on March 4, 2021 (the “2021 Model Policies”). The 2021 Model Policies promoted a specific viewpoint aimed at achieving cultural and social transformation in schools. The 2021 Model Policies also disregarded the rights of parents and ignored other legal and constitutional principles that significantly impact how schools educate students, including transgender students. With the publication of these 2022 Model Policies (the “2022 Model Policies”), the Department hereby withdraws the 2021 Model Policies, which shall have no further force and effect. The Department issues the 2022 Model Policies to provide clear, accurate, and useful guidance to Virginia school boards that align with statutory provisions governing the Model Policies. See Code of Virginia, § 22.1-23.3 (the “Act”). Significantly, the 2022 Model Policies also consider over 9,000 comments submitted to the Department during the public comment period for the 2021 Model Policies.
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9/26/22  2:37 am
Commenter: LH, Fairfax County Public Schools mother

Wholly support the 2022 guidance

I fully support the proposed 2022 Guidelines.  The 2021 Guidance put schools in the position of severing the parent-child relationship, of deciding what is best for a child and of unduly influencing a minor child.  While supportive schools are essential, and the rights of every student are equally important, parents know, love and care for their children far more than schools, which are transient in a child's life.  The previous 2021 guidance went far beyond State and Federal Law in wresting decision-making and authority away from parents and handing it over to schools and non-guardians.  

This new guidance appropriately revokes the deceit authorized by the 2021 guidance, which in practice directed schools to conceal its interactions with a minor child, whether over counseling or use of pronouns, facilities etc. This deceitful aspect of the 2021 guidance was one of its most problematic and dangerous features.

The previous guidance also cited and relied on resources only from ideological groups and smaller committees of medical professionals.  There is growing evidence, internationally and nationally, of harm from rushing children to gender transition, and the previous guidance fostered this by its complete omission of full research.  Most countries in Europe are moving away from the gender-affirming only approach, because of the accumulating evidence of harm to children.  Schools should never take on the role of influencing a child's sexuality or gender identity, and the previous guidance put schools in this position by an entirely one-sided approach to gender, rather than a balanced one as would be true of an evidence-based approach.  

Additionally, the previous guidance put girls and women in harm's way by allowing males into all their safe spaces.  While the intent of the 2021 guidance is to allow transgender students to chose facilities, the practice in the way it is worded disallows questioning of any male entering a female space.  Further, the population of girls and women who have been victims of sexual assault is far greater than the population of transgender students, and it is wrong and dangerous for these women to have to fear males entering private spaces with them. There are reasonable and fair ways to protect transgender students without taking away the right to privacy and safety of every female in the system.

Further, the former guidance unlawfully compelled speech as to pronoun usage, again going far beyond both State and federal law.  Every child deserves equal respect, but the law does not grant them the right to compel the speech of others.

Every school will have to work out ways to respect and support transgender children, including for children who may face danger at home. It goes without question that support, compassion and respect are essential to caring for transgender children in schools. The answer, however, is not a blanket order affecting all families by unlawfully removing parental authority and involvement from a child's life, as was the effect of the previous guidance.  Schools and counselors should be partners with children and parents, not usurpers of parental roles.

This policy is a great step forward in removing the excesses of the 2021 Guidance.

CommentID: 128949