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  9:18 am
Commenter: Alex Weathersby

No Rollback on Transgender Students Rights

As a constituent of Charlottesville City, alum of Albemarle County Schools, sexual/domestic violence preventionist, and queer adult, I wholeheartedly disagree with the proposed changes to this policy. Transgender students deserve to be safe.  

Having one’s name and pronouns accepted is a well-researched method of lowering suicide risk in transgender youth (Bailey et al., 2014; Bauer et al., 2015a; Haas et al., 2011; SPRC, 2008).

Forcing staff to only use a students' legal name/deny them access to school bathrooms will negatively affect the mental health of both parties (the student, for being denied such a basic right as to be called what they want to be called, and the staff for being mandated to break trust with a student). The policy also creates pointless issues for non-transgender students - in my middle school class in Virginia, several students went by nicknames that had nothing to do with their legal names ("Carrie" went by "Morgan", Xiang Zhi went by "John"). This policy puts an undue burden of cost, time, and money on parents and youth to legally change the child's name in order for them to be identified appropriately on the day-to-day.  

Single-stall bathrooms are few and far between, especially in rural counties where all students might attend a single middle or high school; facilities such as stadiums and locker rooms; or campuses that are spread across multiple buildings. Policies that state transgender and nonbinary youth can only access single-stall bathrooms or else be forced to use bathrooms aligned with assigned sex is therefore an access issue. 

Mandating staff to out students to their parents puts youth at risk for abuse from unaffirming family members. The harm from this action can be anything from the guardians pulling the student from school counseling, to kicking them out of the home entirely, to physical abuse, suicide, or even murder of the child. 

Children thrive when they feel safe in schools - all changes should be rejected. 

CommentID: 129120