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Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
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Department of Education
 
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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  6:45 pm
Commenter: Congressman Gerry Connolly (VA-11)

Fundamentally wrong.
 

Governor Youngkin:

 

What you have proposed will have tragic consequences. 

There is one data point to keep in mind as this egregious new policy is debated and implemented: a young LGBTQ person attempts suicide every 45 seconds in America. 

Every 45 seconds. 

Research consistently shows that LGBTQ youth in America are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers. Among trans or nonbinary American youth, the outlook is darker still. Transgender and nonbinary youth are more than twice as likely to seriously consider or attempt suicide compared to their other LGBQ peers. 

Research also consistently shows that young LGBTQ Americans report lower rates of attempted suicide when they have access to safe and affirming environments. In particular, attempted suicide rates dropped when LGBTQ youth found their schools to be welcoming and affirming of their identity. A peer-reviewed study published in 2021 found that transgender and nonbinary youth who reported gender identity acceptance from at least one adult in their lives were 33% less likely to report a suicide attempt in the past year. Put another way, trans students who are not respected and accepted by the adults in their lives — particularly those they interact with most at school — are 33% more likely to commit suicide than trans students who are welcomed and supported at school.

The research is clear. The data does not lie. If Virginia moves ahead with this policy — one that mandates school environments that are inherently unwelcoming and unaccepting of LGBTQ youth — trans and nonbinary students in our Commonwealth will face a significantly greater risk of suicide than their peers. Rather than do all you can to keep Virginia students alive and well, you are headed down a path of guaranteed pain and heartache for this already vulnerable group of young people.

This policy is fundamentally wrong and its outcomes tragically unacceptable. It helps no one, but it harms many. There is no justification for such transparent cruelty in Virginia.

 

Congressman Gerald E. Connolly

Virginia’s 11th District

CommentID: 138902