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  11:52 pm
Commenter: Anonymous

Trans rights are human rights. When we fail to support trans children, we fail all children.

The guidance document begins by making it clear that a goal of school leaders and educators is to “ensure that all students have an opportunity to receive a high-quality education” and to “meet the needs of all individual students”. Yet the changes proposed for the treatment of transgender children in the document do not meet these standards. 

“The consequences of not affirming a child’s gender identity can be severe, and it can interfere with their ability to develop and maintain healthy interpersonal relationships. In the school context, that distress will also hinder a transgender student’s focus in class and ability to learn. The longer a transgender youth is not affirmed, the more significant and long-lasting the negative consequences can become, including loss of interest in school, heightened risk for alcohol and drug use, poor mental health and suicide.” Gender Spectrum et al., 2015, Schools in Transition—A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools 8 (2015)

This policy does not create an “environment free from discrimination, harassment, or bullying” but rather fosters all of these. It encourages teachers and students to disrespect and disregard the humanity of trans kids, and gives them cover and protection under the new policy to do so without consequence. 

Empowering parents is certainly a worthy cause, and something to be lauded. Parents can be some of the most important influences in a child’s development. Unfortunately, as members of the Virginia Department of Education must certainly know, parents are not always right, and do not always support their children as they should. Parents can sometimes make choices that are actively harmful towards children, whether from ignorance or malice. Research suggests that affirming a trans child’s gender identity is critical to their well being. Some resources:

There are many more resources that support the conclusion that affirming the gender identity of trans children is life saving. How can we deny these children life saving care simply because the parents of the child refuse to allow it? How can we eliminate what may be the one safe place for these children, to please parents who seem to be misinformed? In this case, it is clear that ignoring the needs of children in favor of affirming parents does not “improve outcomes for all children in Virginia.”

The existence of trans identities is not an “ideological belief” but a biological fact, something that has been proven repeatedly. To turn the existence of a child into an ideological conflict is to deny their humanity. 

This is a plea to the Board of Education to think of these children and protect them. Think about who is being affected by these changes. Think of the children. Please protect them.

For all of these reasons and more, I STRONGLY OPPOSE.

CommentID: 202963