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Department of Education
Guidance Document Change: The Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools guidance document was developed in response to House Bill 145 and Senate Bill 161, enacted by the 2020 Virginia General Assembly, which directed the Virginia Department of Education to develop and make available to each school board model policies concerning the treatment of transgender students in public elementary and secondary schools. These guidelines address common issues regarding transgender students in accordance with evidence-based best practices and include information, guidance, procedures, and standards relating to: compliance with applicable nondiscrimination laws; maintenance of a safe and supportive learning environment free from discrimination and harassment for all students; prevention of and response to bullying and harassment; maintenance of student records; identification of students; protection of student privacy and the confidentiality of sensitive information; enforcement of sex-based dress codes; and student participation in sex-specific school activities, events, and use of school facilities.
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2/3/21  2:46 pm
Commenter: Parent

Lovingly oppose. More compromise/thought is needed.
 

I appreciate the desire of trans kids to use their preferred bathroom inconspicuously. I agree they should be able to use the bathrooms they are most comfortable using. In fact, all kids deserve to feel safe and protected--and to actually be protected-- when in intimate proximity to other kids. And it is the school system's duty, no less, to safeguard ALL kids from physical and sexual harm. This legislation ensures that trans kids will use their bathroom (locker room, overnight hotel room, etc.) of choice, which is good, but renders teachers impotent to confront any individual who is not trans, who might knowingly, for predatory purposes, exploit the new, looser guidelines. As I understand these guidelines, a student does not have to make any credible case of transgenderism in order to gain entrance to any other facility: all that person needs to do is walk in. It shows a shocking lack of knowledge of the opportunistic way predators operate--indeed, of the way unformed adolescent brains operate-- to believe that all students will automatically approach this new laxity in good faith, especially when they know that teachers are impotent to stop them. Any teacher who attempts to question any youth for entering one of these facilities for any reason is to be punished. Think of the message this sends any individual tempted to flout the spirit and intent of this new law. The gender-based separation of bathrooms, up to now, has afforded school systems the benefit of a built-in automatic, noninvasive obstacle/deterrent against potential sexual predation/mischief--one that was easy to enforce if violated. Obviously, this system was not sufficient to protect all students--notably trans students, so a solution needed to be sought. However, when we remove ALL differentiated designation from these areas, there needs to be some other, more intentional, safeguard effected to take its place--not a total renunciation of any vigilance. Involving some sort of process, analogous to an IEP, perhaps, would at least somewhat help answer the concerns of parents and students. I'm not sure exactly how this process could then be used to discreetly grant access to particular students, but it seems it should possible to find a way to enable teachers to find out privately whether a student in a certain bathroom should or should not be there, without that teacher having to question the student face-to-face. Also, allow schools to include bathrooms and locker rooms similar to those at rec centers in our area--similar to the "family" bathrooms--which are smaller and more private (and more desirable, let's face it), and can be used by anyone, but their priority is to be used in situations outside the usual split between genders. Anyone can have access to them, which removes stigma from their use by particular individuals. Students should be encouraged only to use them in emergency situations, if at all possible, to ensure that they remain available to those who need them most. The other traditionally designated bathrooms could still be there. 

My other objections to these new guidelines have to do with the heavy-handedness with which teachers and students are being compelled to conform to them. While I realize these measures are motivated by sincere compassion for those with gender dysphoria, and a desire to shield them from anxiety and harm, including self-harm--which are noble and loving reasons--1. I have doubts in the theory in which they are based (much more [unbiased] research needs to be done), 2. I do not know for a fact that they are truly helpful to the trans person, and 3. I object to the draconian methods that are being sought to enforce them. I can agree with the sentiment, "I understand you are having trouble feeling you are the gender that matches with your anatomy; I am terribly sorry that you are feeling grief and pain over this situation. I wish there was some way I could help." [Note: I'm not saying that I would actually address someone openly using these words.] That is a compassionate stance. But the legislation pushes us all to make the leap to: "Therefore, I believe you are the gender you desire to be," which is what we are saying when we use a preferred pronoun. This is a huge leap. My conscience grieves me when I do this, because it disconnects my words from the truth of what I believe. That disconnect is the very definition of lying. Policy that is based upon deception is bad policy.  I deeply wish to avoid further deceiving someone with gender dysphoria. Not because I hate, but because I care, and I can't help but wonder if this is a bandaid solution for a problem with a deeper root cause. I understand that the situation calls for delicacy and that feelings of the students involved can be fragile, but there must be a way that can be found in which all parties can feel comfortable. I don't pretend to be an expert in what works, but I don't believe an acceptable solution has been reached with this legislation. If only a compromise could be found in which a teacher (or student) could choose to use only gender-neutral pronouns and avoid the use of first names in class when referring to all students. This way, he/she could avoid singling out any transgender student as different while preserving his/her own personal integrity and religious beliefs (e.g., that God gives us our gender identity, and that it is good). Alas, there was recently a case in Fairfax County in which a teacher attempted just this measure as a compromise, and the upshot was, he was fired. I feel that there should be some leeway--some openness to compromise, without zero tolerance policies. All parties deserve to be comfortable. Teachers should not be required, as they are with this legislation, to lie to parents. It literally calls for a plan that "may include [teachers] addressing the student at school with their asserted name and pronoun while using the legal name and pronoun associated with the sex assigned at birth when communicating with parents or guardians." Deception, in summary, starts with lying to oneself, lying to one's classmate or student; and continues with lying to a student's parent, or facing disciplinary measures. The mention of bringing Child Protective Services into the home of transgendered students to deal with parents who may be suspected of "abuse" [read: lack of preferred pronouns?], could push this even into homes. It is an overreach of power. It engenders a sense of distrust in the school system. It smacks of "newspeak." And it will cause more, not less, pushback from opponents as they feel unheard and threatened, which, in turn, will cause more problems for transgendered students, not fewer.

CommentID: 95610