The 2022 proposed Model Policies present contradictory standards regarding the identification of students. While III(D)(1) states that “Every effort should be made to ensure that a transgender student wishing to change his or her means of address is treated with respect, compassion, and dignity in the classroom and school environment,” the guidelines which follow require school staff to misgender (use the wrong pronouns for) and deadname (use the wrong name for) transgender students unless their parents specifically request otherwise in writing. For a student with an unsupportive family, that requirement presents an impossible hurdle.
Forcing staff to use names and pronouns that do not match a student’s presentation and identity will cause real harm. Respecting trans students’ preferred names improves their mental health and lowers suicidal ideation and attempts. (Stephen T. Russell et al., Chosen Name Use Is Linked to Reduced Depressive Symptoms, Suicidal Ideation, and Suicidal Behavior Among Transgender Youth, Journal of Adolescent Health https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1054139X18300855). Additionally, if the proposed guidelines are applied consistently, they could expose any child who goes by a name other than their legal name of record to embarrassment and bullying.
This is wrong because transgender students deserve the human dignity present in simply being addressed in a way that matches their identity. Requiring parents to provide a request for using one's preferred pronouns and name, especially in the case of older kids and teenagers, is dehumanizing and condescending; students would be overlooked and the validation of their identity, which is crucial to their mental health and wellbeing, would be out of their hands. This policy should address student rights and needs, not just those of their parents.
As a previous student of the Virginia public education system, my transgender and queer friends would have suffered under this policy. This is a huge step back in caring for and supporting all students.
For these reasons, I ask you to repeal the 2022 Model Policies and reinstate the 2021 Model Policies.