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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10/26/22  11:58 pm
Commenter: Nicole Galloway

Oppose 2022 Model Policy

The 2022 proposed Model Policies present contradictory standards regarding the identification of students. While III(D)(1) states that “Every effort should be made to ensure that a transgender student wishing to change his or her means of address is treated with respect, compassion, and dignity in the classroom and school environment,” the guidelines which follow require school staff to misgender (use the wrong pronouns for) and deadname (use the wrong name for) transgender students unless their parents specifically request otherwise in writing. For a student with an unsupportive family, that requirement presents an impossible hurdle.

Forcing staff to use names and pronouns that do not match a student’s presentation and identity will cause real harm. Respecting trans students’ preferred names improves their mental health and lowers suicidal ideation and attempts. (Stephen T. Russell et al., Chosen Name Use Is Linked to Reduced Depressive Symptoms, Suicidal Ideation, and Suicidal Behavior Among Transgender Youth, Journal of Adolescent Health Additionally, if the proposed guidelines are applied consistently, they could expose any child who goes by a name other than their legal name of record to embarrassment and bullying.

This is wrong because transgender students deserve the human dignity present in simply being addressed in a way that matches their identity. Requiring parents to provide a request for using one's preferred pronouns and name, especially in the case of older kids and teenagers, is dehumanizing and condescending; students would be overlooked and the validation of their identity, which is crucial to their mental health and wellbeing, would be out of their hands. This policy should address student rights and needs, not just those of their parents.

As a previous student of the Virginia public education system, my transgender and queer friends would have suffered under this policy. This is a huge step back in caring for and supporting all students. 

For these reasons, I ask you to repeal the 2022 Model Policies and reinstate the 2021 Model Policies.


CommentID: 203010