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.
Previous Comment     Next Comment     Back to List of Comments
9/28/22  9:24 pm
Commenter: Sean Killeen

Callousness and Cowardice

This policy's callousness is matched only by its cowardice.

It seeks to roll back existing protections and affirming policies -- ones that support children -- at a time when mental health and well-being is most crucial for students. It denies a student the name of their choice, and the pronouns of their choice. Who benefits from this? Who is made safer? Which students are more supported and accepted and cared for as a result? NONE. Furthermore, this policy cowardly approaches the changes under the guise of empowering parents, which adds additional insult to its transparent bigotry. This parent would like to make it clear that I expect Virginia schools to honor their students -- which means honoring their choices around their identity. 

As a white, cisgender man, I don't check many "diversity" boxes. Which is why I want it to be clear and on the record that I wholeheartedly renounce this policy. I know and have known several trans people so far in my life, and one common theme in all of their threads is an incredible and painful struggle to come to the realization, despite societal and institutional pressure, that their identity is not what had been assigned at birth. I have known their joy as they have finally discovered and began living as their true selves. And I have seen the toll it has exacted on them and their families. Their story is one of bravery and resilience and an often painful journey of self-actualization.

I stand with trans people, and I want trans and queer youth reading this to know that you are not alone. You deserve to be yourself as you define, and no matter how this administration might try to couch it in other language, we see right through it, too. "These are good days for bad people", but your living your full lives well -- as your true selves, on your own terms -- will be the best revenge on these backwards policies and those who seek to implement them. Glenn Youngkin and his administration may fail you, but you may yet still thrive. May this policy and his administration be consigned to the rubbish bin of history where they belong.  And may you shine on.

CommentID: 179497