Model policies disregard role of parents
The Virginia Catholic Conference is the public policy agency representing Virginia’s Catholic bishops and their two dioceses. For the following reasons, the Conference opposed HB 145 and SB 161 during the 2020 Virginia General Assembly session and now urges the Department of Education to reject the proposed model regulations drafted in response to that legislation:
- Schools have a duty to protect the bodily privacy and dignity of all students.
- No child should be forced to share showers, locker rooms, hotel rooms or other intimate settings with a member of the opposite biological sex.
- Many children would feel uncomfortable when they encounter a member of the opposite sex – particularly adults – in gendered facilities or when entering a shared hotel room as part of an overnight school activity.
- Children, particularly adolescents, can experience hypersensitive and traumatic reactions to these situations.
- The model regulations infringe the First Amendment rights of parents to raise and care for their children.
- Schools should not be accommodating the especially harmful view that youth is an appropriate time to be encouraging, in some cases, irreversible “gender transitions”.
- For a school system to facilitate a child’s, particularly a young child’s, “gender transition” is not leadership but rather irresponsibility.
Role of parents
Just as parents must give consent for over-the-counter medications, field trips and extracurricular activities, they have the constitutional right to guide the healthcare and education of their children. The U.S. Supreme Court has noted:
The child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.
Parents know their children better than anyone and have their best interests in mind. When children find themselves struggling with gender dysphoria, they need their parents’ support and counsel. Yet, the Department has premised its regulations on a blanket endorsement of gender identity theory that diverges sharply from the views of many parents. In doing so, it has made a policy determination not referenced anywhere in the underlying legislation and therefore not delegated to it by the General Assembly; that unauthorized policy assumption states:
For many people, their gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth. For others, their internalized gender identity does not necessarily correspond to the sex assigned at birth, where the gender identity may be one in a range such as transgender, nonbinary, or gender-expansive. Gender identity is considered an innate characteristic that most children declare by age five to six (Lamb & Lerner, 2015).
Alarmingly, the proposed regulations assert as fact that children declare their gender identity by kindergarten or first grade. Moreover, the document would virtually codify gender identity theory into statewide educational policy without acknowledging that there are undisputed scientific truths to the contrary.
For example, neuroscientist and author Debra H. Soh, Ph.D., has written, “Biological sex refers to whether we are female or male, based on our anatomy and reproductive functions. The concept of sex is, by definition, binary.”
Dr. Stephen B. Levine, M.D., a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, has testified that:
Sex as defined by biology and reproductive function cannot be changed. While hormonal and surgical procedures may enable some individuals to "pass" as the opposite gender during some or all of their lives, such procedures carry with them physical, psychological, and social risks, and no procedures can enable an individual to perform the reproductive role of the opposite sex.
The Department’s proposed policies would pit children against their parents when it comes to important questions about sex and gender identity:
“School divisions will need to consider the health and safety of the student in situations where students may not want their parents to know about their transgender status … There are no regulations requiring school staff to notify a parent or guardian of a student’s request to affirm their gender identity...” (Recommended Standard, p.12)
Dr. Levine has also noted:
For a child to live radically different identities at home and at school, and to conceal what he or she perceives to be his or her true identity from parents, is psychologically unhealthy in itself.
The DOE proposal thus undercuts open and honest conversation between parents and their children. It also obstructs parents from active involvement in the life of their child at school.
Moreover, the proposed guidance document violates the presumption of parental autonomy in Virginia. Code Sec. 1-240.1 provides that a parent has the fundamental right to make decisions concerning the upbringing, education and care of the parent’s child.
Finally, the proposed regulations provide no accommodations for students and teachers whose sincerely and deeply held religious beliefs and understanding of matters of gender and human sexuality do not accord with the views underlying the proposed policies.
The Conference, therefore, opposes the proposed “Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools.”
 Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925). See also Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972).