To Whom It May Concern,
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the 2022 Model Policies on the Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools. I am an English teacher at Waynesboro High School, and I participate in many school activities as a class co-sponsor and as a part of the theater department.
I would like to raise serious concerns regarding these model policies.
At WHS, there are approximately 90 transgender and gender-expansive students. These policies would directly negatively impact their daily lives by denying them the ability to safely express themselves and be affirmed for who they are. These students are deserving of protection and support.
The suicide rate for transgender youth is already extremely high. 52% of trans youth seriously considered suicide, while 21% attempted suicide in the past year. This problem is preventable, but the new model policies would exacerbate the issue by denying students life-saving social transitions at school. The Trevor Project explains that “transgender and nonbinary youth who reported having pronouns respected by all or most people in their lives attempted suicide at half the rate of those who did not have their pronouns respected.” This statistic shows that honoring students’ chosen names and pronouns is a crucial form of suicide prevention.
Moreover, as much as we would like to imagine that all parents are supportive of their children no matter their gender identity, educators see that this is unfortunately not the case: Transgender youth are at a higher risk of experiencing homelessness, in part because they are often kicked out of their homes or abandoned by caregivers due to their trans identity. The Trevor Project states that “38% of transgender girls/women, 39% of transgender boys/men, and 35% of nonbinary youth reported housing instability and homelessness.” By requiring educators such as teachers and guidance counselors to automatically inform parents of their child’s transgender identity if the student comes out at school, the state puts young people in a position where they must either suppress their identities entirely or risk the roof over their heads.
In summary, these new policies would in reality deny students the privacy, dignity, and respect they deserve. Schools have an important role in supporting the mental health and safety of their transgender and nonbinary students. As an educator dedicated to creating learning environments where everyone can thrive, I urge you to substantially revise these model policies to protect trans youth.
Masters of Arts in Teaching, 2019