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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9/28/22  11:44 am
Commenter: Central Virginia Therapist

Opposed to Proposed Policy Change

To Whom it May Concern,

The proposed model policies purport to seek to protect the rights of students; however, this policy goes in stark contrast to those students' rights. As a parent, human being, individual, and licensed therapist, I understand the desire of parents to be involved in important decisions their children make at different developmental stages. Parents should want to be involved. However, there are some children who will be outed to parents who are not able to support those children in a healthy manner. Not only will those parents not support their child's choices, gender identity, or sexual orientation, they will not accept their child's orientation or identity, they will react in an unhealthy and unhelpful manner that alienates their child, harms their relationship with their child, and increases the risk of depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicide. Suicide rates are higher among youth whose parents and support system do not accept their identity and orientation. This is a vulnerable population and these youth should not be outed to their parents for their choice of pronouns, they should be supported by the adults in their lives. Perhaps those supportive adults can encourage and support these youth in sharing their feelings with their parents in a healthy and supportive environment.

There are protected categories of information including substance use, sexual activity, sexual health, sexual orientation and gender identity, and in general youth have the right to confidentiality unless there is a danger to themselves or others. Youth have the right to express themselves without fear of retribution. Teachers should not be put in a place of having to choose whether to follow these policies and potentially harm their students or hold the rapport and trust, and best interest of their students at heart and risk legal or professional repercussions just as therapists are only allowed to report to parents about risk of self-harm/suicide, homicide, or to report incidences of abuse.

Further, these policies go beyond bathrooms (although I have never understood why people feel this is such an issue - people go in the bathroom to relieve themselves, not to assault anyone), it goes to the point of outing young people to people who may not be emotionally able to support them. As a parent, I want my children to come to me and talk to me. I want them to feel safe and secure that I will love them unconditionally and will accept them no matter what. However, I also want my kids to feel that they can talk with another trusted adult if they don't feel like they can come to me with something. It is better and healthier for them to express themselves to someone than to hide in fear of expressing their thoughts, feelings, identity, and beliefs. 

CommentID: 159547