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  8:53 am
Commenter: David Gorman, Professional School Counselor

Strongly Oppose
I'm a middle school counselor in Chesterfield County Public Schools and the facilitator of our Gay Straight Alliance club. I strongly oppose the governor's new "2022 Model Policies on the Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia's Public Schools."
The 2021 policies were exceptional at supporting transgender students, and I've seen the positive effect on my transgender students when school staff are accepting and affirming of their gender identity and chosen name and pronouns. In fact, some of my transgender students are flourishing this year with the support we're providing them. 
The governor's new 2022 policy will harm transgender students, plain and simple. Many transgender students are not ready to come out to their parents, and the 2022 policy forces them to do so--potentially putting themselves in danger at home--if they want to be exist as their authentic selves at school. The 2022 policy will also put transgender students at higher risk of suicide.
Transgender students are already a population with high risk factors. The 2022 policy is not based on evidence or research. In fact, the evidence and research runs contrary to the 2022 policy:
  • 56% of transgender youth reported a previous suicide attempt and 86% reported suicidality. School belongingness mitigates these risks and is a significant predictor variable for reducing suicidal ideation and attempts among transgender youth (Austin et al., 2020).

  • Transgender and nonbinary youth whose schools prevent them from using the restrooms/locker rooms that best matched their gender identities were significantly more likely to be sexually assaulted, 26% for transgender males and 149% for transgender females (Murchison et al., 2019).

  • 28% of transgender youth whose pronouns are not affirmed attempted suicide in the past year. In fact, when pronouns are respected, transgender youth attempted suicide at half the rate of those who did not have their pronouns respected (Trevor Project, 2020).

  • Transgender adolescents experience significantly disproportionate levels of childhood abuse compared to cisgender adolescents and experience greater levels of homelessness as a result of being kicked out or abused (Thoma, 2021).

The number one priority of Virginia public schools is to keep our students safe. In order to keep our transgender student safe, we cannot enact the 2022 policy. It's as simple as that.
Thank you for taking the time to read my message and take my opinion--based on my professional training and practice--into consideration.
CommentID: 129041