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  10:01 am
Commenter: Melissa


I implore the Board of Education to reject these policies as they are fueled by hatred and transphobia, and are both disgusting and disgraceful.! We must protect transgender and non-binary youth! Trans and non-binary children deserve the same safety and autonomy afforded to their cis peers. Trans youth face extremely high rates of suicide attempts because they already feel excluded, different, and unsafe in their own bodies, in their own homes. This policy will have a direct effect to make that WORSE for trans children in Virginia schools, make no doubt that if enacted this will be responsible for a higher rate of suicide among queer kids. 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. 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.

CommentID: 129285