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  9:43 am
Commenter: John

Oppose changes due to certainty of student harm

I am a lifelong resident of Virginia, and I oppose the proposed changes to this guidance document.

Transgender children are at a great risk. The life they must lead is inherently difficult, and can be made much worse by humiliations and hostility from their community and the adults responsible for their care and education. This can unfortunately lead to severe mental health struggles and even suicide. It is very important here to take the position supported overwhelmingly by science: affirming the gender identity of trans people dramatically reduces their suffering, and their risk of suicide.

Respectfully, giving transgender people this basic degree of dignity is far more important than the "rights of parents" to be bigoted and reject someone's very self, religiously motivated or otherwise. The former is life-saving. Respecting a transgender person's identity is not an ideological position or an opinion; it's a matter of fundamental humanity and respect, if you care at all about the well-being of that person (as demonstrated by scientific consensus). Therefore, to systematically insist that a transgender person is not who they are (as these proposed guidelines would allow school staff and students to do uninhibited, through condoning the use of incorrect pronouns and names, or by requiring trans students to share intimate spaces with members of the wrong gender), in complete disregard for the negative consequences this will have on that person, is an act of inhuman malice. These new guidelines would cause a large amount of harm to vulnerable students, and for this reason, I strongly oppose the changes.

CommentID: 129203