Agencies | Governor
Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Agency
Department of Education
 
Board
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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10/26/22  11:16 pm
Commenter: Parent, Arlington Public Schools

2022 model policies "respect" only cisgender students
 

The "2022 MODEL POLICIES ON THE PRIVACY, DIGNITY, AND RESPECT FOR ALL STUDENTS AND PARENTS IN VIRGINIA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS” really respects only cis-gender students and parents who don’t believe in any other kind of student.  

 
It is wrong to require parental consent before school staff can call transgender & non-binary students by their preferred names & pronouns.  LGBTQ+ students whose parents are unsupportive are at higher risk of depression and suicide (https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/article/facts-about-lgbtq-youth-suicide/), and if their school environment is also unsupportive, then their lives are in even more danger.  Letting school staff discriminate against LGBTQ+ students in the name of free speech or religious freedom gives tacit endorsement to bullying by students.  
 
A note about religious freedom - as a Christian who attends church just about every week, I don’t understand what is so “Christian” about misgendering transgender/non-binary students (KIDS).  I am certain that Jesus would never do that.  Every child is made in God’s image, each one is loved by God in their fullness of who God continues to call them to be.   
 
Even worse, if parents have asked for their transgender or non-binary student to be called by their preferred name and pronoun, the student’s and family’s right to dignity is under this policy less important than an unsupportive teacher’s right to “free speech.”  Teachers have power over their students; they are analogous to an adult’s boss in the workplace.  Teachers, administrators, and other school staff have the right to think as negatively as they want about LGBTQ+ people, just like my supervisor or co-workers have the right to hate Asian-Americans such as myself.  But if my boss or co-workers were to say on a daily basis that they hate Asians and wish they’d all go back where they came from or to call me a demeaning nickname instead of my real name, that is not free speech, that is creating a hostile work environment.  Likewise, if a teacher chooses to call a transgender/non-binary student by their birth name, especially if the student and their family have told the teacher their preferred name & pronouns, that is not free speech or freedom of religion, that’s  discrimination.   
 
The requirement for student athletes to compete based on their birth sex is also wrong, even in the name of “protecting” girls’ athletics.  In Texas a few years ago, a transgender boy was forced to compete in the girls’ state wrestling championship since Texas had a similar requirement (https://slate.com/human-interest/2017/02/the-texas-trans-boy-forced-to-wrestle-girls-exposes-the-illogic-of-anti-trans-policy.html).  Not only did that violate the transgender wrestler’s rights, but it also led cisgender girls to forfeit the championship because wrestling against a transgender boy put them at risk of serious injury.  If you are serious about leveling the playing field for cisgender girls in sports, then you should have the VHSL develop a policy based on evidence and extensive input from student athletes, coaches, and families instead of politicians dictating policy.  Students of any gender identify should have the chance to participate in sports and all the health, social, and character benefits from being physically active and being part of a team.  If cisgender female athletes feel that transgender female athletes get an unfair advantage and take away championship and scholarship opportunities, then VHS should address the issue while standing for inclusion.  For example, state championships could add a non-binary /transgender division, following the lead of several marathons in recent years (https://www.runnersworld.com/news/a41233893/non-binary-categories-major-marathons/).  Or if a transgender girl wins a divisional championship, both the transgender girl and the cisgender girl with the best time/score should be allowed to compete in the state championship.  It is also especially unfair to exclude transgender girls from a girls’ team at a school that doesn’t have a boys’ team, such as cheerleading/dance.  

 

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