Dear Virginia Department of Education:
Thank you for developing these model policies to support the education of all students, especially those who are transgender. I write in support of these policies as a mom, former PTA and County Council PTA president, and family friend of two children who have transitioned successfully with the support of their families and educators.
A former teacher of mine explained that respect is “treating people the way THEY wish to be treated, not the way YOU want to treat them.” I think about the way school administrators showed respect for one of our family friends when he was transitioning. He was an advanced academic student on the autism spectrum. Once he made the decision to transition, lack of support from his educators would have had grave consequences. Thankfully he attended a high school whose principal showed respect and worked with our friend to determine what he needed so that he could focus on his education.
These model policies support all students because they guide school divisions and their employees in keeping the focus on education. Following these policies helps equip principals, teachers and staff with the guidance and resources needed to provide equitable education. A side effect is that in following these policies, educators will eliminate potential for unwanted attention for students who are transgender, and the distractions to other students that would result.
I do hope that school divisions expand on the model policy for professional development and include more than their mental health professionals in ongoing training opportunities. As we strive to support the variety of people who identify as LGBTQ+ our understanding and ability to identify emerging issues deepens. Training helps build confidence among our professionals and would surely be appreciated by classroom teachers.
Many people, for a variety of reasons, struggle with the reality that some people do not identify with the gender assigned at birth. Many of these people are vocal, and their collective opposition to equitable education for transgender students often shares the sharply negative tones of our national discourse.
And so I cheer your efforts to keep educators’ focus on providing equitable education, in compliance with Virginia law. The model policies in themselves are informative and will help educate the thousands of people reading them, and the public servants charged with enacting them.
Thank you for your work.