This Virginia Father and Teacher Opposes
As a father and public school teacher, I am opposed to these model policies. Before I detail the specifics of what I find most troubling, I’d like to say a word about where we agree. It will not take long. We agree that “all children have a right to learn, free from discrimination and harassment” (Model Policies, pg 8). After that guiding principle, our methods diverge drastically.
I disagree with the belief that “gender identity is considered an innate characteristic that most children declare by age five to six” as cited in these Model Policies. Although you cite studies that support this claim, these studies are as old as 2015 and as recent as 2020. This evidence fails to demonstrate the longitudinal studies that are needed to document the long-term effects of choosing or affirming one’s gender at age five to six and how this decision affects one’s overall happiness and health throughout life if it differs from the gender at birth. These policies are a hasty acceptance of an ideology that is in great need of more supporting evidence. I am disturbed by their trust and willingness to embrace and promote ideas that could very well be harmful to children.
Furthermore, I strongly disagree with the Policies’ intentions to support and affirm students in lieu of their parents’ support and perhaps in opposition to it. The claim that “there are no regulations requiring school staff to notify a parent or guardian of a student’s request to affirm their gender identity” as described on page 12 is troubling. Where else is this philosophy supported in public education? As a teacher, I know that schools routinely notify parents about a student’s visits to the nurse and about their struggles and successes in classes. How much more is it important to work with parents on an issue involving their child’s sexuality! Moreover, the Policies’ intentions to “be prepared to support the safety and welfare of students when their families are not affirming” as described on page 13 is startling. Schools should support parents as the primary educators, not strive to supplant them. It is parents who partner with schools to educate their children, and this document suggests that it is the school system and the state that get the power to direct a child’s future over their parent’s wishes, as seen in the first paragraph on page 13. This is a dangerous precedent, one that is not entitled to the school system or the state, and one that I oppose most strongly.
Finally, I am disturbed to read that “school divisions should accept a student’s assertion of their gender identity without requiring any particular substantiating evidence, including diagnosing, treatment, or legal documents” and that they do not require a “minimum duration of expressed gender identity,” as stated on page 12. Again, where else is this philosophy promoted in public education? Rightly so, students are required to obtain vaccines and undergo sports physicals to demonstrate their fitness and health, and to show medical evidence of this before coming to school or participating in sports. Will the school also stop seeking evidence of these for similar concerns about privacy? To best support the mental health of students, schools should seek to collaborate with doctors, parents, and other medical professionals as equal members of a team instead of assuming that they are the sole arbiter of any child’s gender identity.
As stated above, I find these Model Policies very problematic and potentially harmful to the students they seek to support and to the community at large. All students deserve a “safe and supportive school climate,” and all students also deserve a safe and supportive home climate. These policies have the potential to drive a wedge between students, their parents, and their families in their own home. The VDOE would do well to remember that it was this home that was a student’s first school, that it was the parents who were their first teachers, and that it is the parents who remain their primary educators.