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  10:39 pm
Commenter: Cathryn Bryant

Strongly Opposed; Support our children

I hope that any concerned will read this comment in its entirety and reconsider going through with the proposed policies, as it only stands to harm transgender youth in our schools. 

I will not reiterate the statistics of transgender youth who experience homelessness and depression, as the 2021 model mentions these several times and any research on the challenges transgender people face should also yield those statistics. Lawmakers should know that lack of parental support for transgender children is a major cause of these issues. Some parents, upon learning their child is transgender or another LGBTQ identity that does not agree with their personal views, resort to abusive behaviors and in some cases abandon or kick out children from their homes. Both can result in homelessness and major mental health issues in their children. The policy that parents must be informed if teachers or staff gain knowledge that their children are harmlessly using different names and gendered pronouns for themselves puts these children in danger of experiencing abuse or abandonment.

Putting aside all prior knowledge the context in which Governor Youngkin and the Virginia Government wish to implement these policies, this document shows a ridiculous lack of research, especially compared to the 2021 model policies. While the previous model sought out input and used references from psychologists, medical experts, parents and students, as well as previous laws and codes, this 2022 guidance document seems to only interpret codes and amendments in very opinionated language. Not only this but the resources provided in the document are general guides on bullying prevention, there are no resources offered that specifically seek to help parents in affirming and supporting their transgender children or even educate them as to what gender identity means. The lack of research and to be frank professionalism in this document is incredibly disappointing. I would expect our lawmakers and representatives to put more effort and care into their work.

On a personal note, as someone who graduated from a public high school in Montgomery County just recently in 2021, the harassment and abuse LGBTQ and specifically transgender students experience in our schools is a huge problem. There were multiple instances where students would use derogatory terms and slurs against transgender and LGBTQ people, often other students, with little to no repercussion or education from teachers and staff. I even heard instances of students threatening serious violence against LGBTQ students. The consideration of LGBTQ topics as inappropriate or taboo is one cause of this harassment, meaning that the 2022 proposed policies will in the best case, cause no improvement in the state of anti-transgender bullying, and in the worst case, make this harassment worse. 

I also know many students, directly and indirectly who faced parental abuse because of their transgender identities, causing them to experience a lot of mental health issues, and for some suicidal thoughts. The rate of young transgender people who commit suicide due to a lack of support from parents, teachers, and other adults absolutely breaks my heart, and if these policies are put into place rates of mental illness and suicide will very likely rise.

I urge the Virginia Department of Education, Governor Youngkin, and all who are associated with or that will review this document to truly put the wellbeing of all children, including transgender children, at the forefront of their consideration concerning this topic, and stop letting misinformation and fearmongering infect policymaking.

CommentID: 202578