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  11:55 pm
Commenter: Concerned Public School Parent

Lawsuits against schools that secretly help students transition could devastate budgets

I am concerned that school systems that decide to resist Gov. Youngkin's proposed changes in policy and remain involved in assisting with students' gender transitions may open themselves up to the potential for lawsuits that could cripple their educational budgets.  Already, we see such lawsuits being pressed in certain states and even abroad, against both medical institutions and schools that have facilitated the transitioning of students.  At some point, a judge is going to rule in favor of parents and against school systems that step outside of their purview as educators and usurp parents' legal rights regarding life-altering medical decisions for their children.  One wonders how substantial the financial settlements might be in cases where schools have secretly led children in the direction of hormone therapies or surgeries that brought permanent disfigurement and psychological distress?  There may also be cases where parents sue a school system following a child's suicide.  Judgments or settlements that reach into the tens of millions of dollars (or even higher) could devastate a school system's ability to do what it is supposed to do -- educate children in a respectful and cooperative relationship with parents.  It seems likely, as well, that school board members, teachers, and school administrative staff who step outside their normal responsibilities and support secretly transitioning children will be among those targeted by plaintiffs, resulting, if nothing else, in huge legal fees for everyone involved.  It is instructive here to note, as most would agree, that it is not within the prescribed fiduciary responsibilities of educators to work with students to change, for example, their racial identity, their religious identity, or their national identity, among others.  Working secretly to do so would presumably result in serious professional consequences.  Why then, one might ask, is it viewed as so compelling a matter, when a child expresses a desire to alter their sex (in this instance, often a physical and irreversible alteration), that parents should potentially be denied any role in their child's decision and, instead, that school officials should have the final and absolute say in what medical therapies a child is guided toward?  One simply need ask: How would most parents react if they learned, after the fact, that their boy had secretly become a "girl" through hormones or the mutilation of his genitals, all under the personal guidance of his school's personnel or, similarly, if their girl had been turned into a "boy?   Again, I believe many parents, presented with such a fait accompli, would view this as the worst imaginable violation of their rights and might well feel inclined to sue everyone involved for every penny they're worth.  Indeed, the most common perception is that those school officials who have supported the Northam policy on gender transitioning are misappropriating their "power" or "authority" over children and imposing upon them, almost as guinea pigs, their own ideological convictions regarding gender issues -- even when a huge majority of Virginians (and Americans as a whole) would reject the right of public schools to take upon themselves such a prerogative.  Whether now or ten years from now, the legal and financial consequences of this sort of usurping of parental rights could well cost recalcitrant school systems dearly.  Certain Virginia schools could potentially be hit with hundreds of millions of dollars in legal costs, all siphoned out of their educational budgets, as a tragic consequence of their diversion away from their mandated responsibilities and their violation of the public trust.  Accordingly, an important indirect benefit of the Youngkin policy is that it minimizes these dangers and protects precious educational funds across the commonwealth so that they might be used to best serve our children.


CommentID: 202988