February 3, 2021
Dr. Samantha Hollins
Virginia Department of Education
101 N. 14th Street
Richmond, VA 23219
RE: Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools
Dear Assistant Superintendent Hollins,
Thank you to the VA Department of Education for their hard work on this comprehensive guidance on model policies for the treatment of transgender students in Virginia’s public schools. I am writing in strong support of this guidance and urge you to consider the friendly edits listed in GLSEN and Equality Virginia’s public comments.
I am non-binary transgender woman, a young non-profit professional, and an active community member in various organizations including my congregation. Growing up as a queer child, I felt alienated from some of my peers and teachers due to anti-LGBTQ comments and there were times I was scared of social repercussions of being known openly queer. I was lucky that was the extent of my negative experiences. Thankfully, I found a supportive niche in my high school so I was able to be an openly queer kid without too much struggle. I also was not out as transgender back then, and I can only imagine how different my experience would have been if I had been the *only* openly trans student in my high school at the time.
Unfortunately, many LGBTQ kids across Virginia go through much worse than I did, particularly Black, Indigenous, and Brown students who are transgender or non-binary. When you are focused on your day-to-day safety and comfort, it’s very difficult to actually focus on learning either inside the classroom or in extracurricular activities. When kids are not included, safe, and comfortable in their learning environment, they cannot thrive and they face negative outcomes like lower GPAs, lower graduation rates, and even physical and verbal harassment.
Every Virginia student has the right to a safe and equal learning environment. The status quo of school districts across the Commonwealth has violated that right for transgender and non-binary students. These model policies are a much needed intervention to provide school districts with the clarity, guidance, and foundation to fully support all students’ rights, particularly trans and non-binary students whose education has been undervalued as a vulnerable population.
I urge you to adopt the guidance (with minor edits as mentioned above) and do the right thing by all students to address issues of equity, belonging, and safety. All students cannot succeed until and unless trans and non-binary students succeed. Thank you for your efforts!