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.
Commenter: Advocate for safe learning environment
recommendations for safe, inclusive educating environment
recommendations for safe, inclusive educating environment
In reference to VA Dept of Education's consideration of "Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools"
- These model policies have the noble intent to protect children from harm and provide a caring, inclusive environment in which children can learn and grow. However, these policies do not acknowledge the noble intent that the vast majority of parents have to protect, love, and nurture our children to realize their full potential and impact our world for good. These model policies presume that loving parents who are trying to guide their child through exploration of gender identity alternatives in a way that is consistent with their family values and religious beliefs are by definition efforts to harm an assumed transgender child, and therefore grounds for the state to legally intervene. This is an overreach of the state’s and the school system’s authority to interfere with several protected liberties regarding speech, religion, privacy, and others.
- The Department of Education needs to demonstrate a higher standard to “follow the science” in consideration of these policy changes. The evidence offered to support these recommendations is predominantly anecdotal and often narrowly supported by one-sided, subjective opinions or conclusions. The supportive evidence lacks the rigor of the scientific method intended to remove, or at least counter, subjective bias, and it fails to equitably acknowledge study’s and scenarios that have reached opposing conclusions.
- These policies and guidelines as written are overly biased to advantage one minority people group to the potential detriment of the majority of the student body. For example, page 7 under related laws, makes a reference to the “First Amendment: The First Amendment protects freedom of speech and expression.” The Department of Education saw fit to include a clarifying statement “Schools may not prevent students from expressing their identity.” However, there is a notable omission that the First Amendment also protects students rights to express legally protected religious convictions or doctrine. Further, much of the policy guidance included herein goes further to create a toxic environment where neither students nor tax-payer parents would be free to express legally protected religious convictions on the subject of sex from fear of the penalties enumerated in this document or the more restrictive derived documents that the respective school boards are encouraged to enact.
- Page 13 issues a veiled threat that Child Protective Services should be used to remove a child from a family “Whenever school personnel suspects or becomes aware that a student is being abused, neglected, or at risk of abuse or neglect by their parent due to their transgender identity,” but fails to define what constitutes being abused, neglected, or at risk of abuse or neglect. It is evident from the guidance within the entire document that school personel could subjectively interpret that parents exercising protected religious freedoms or doing things like refusing to buy their children a certain style of clothes could warrant notification to CPS of suspected abuse or neglect. It is a slippery slope, and this policy could easily result in unlawful harassment or worse. If this was not the intent, the language should be modified to meticulously define these terms and overtly affirm the Dept of Education's commitment to protect all students’ and parents’ rights to free speech, religion, and privacy.
- The overuse of terms like “fluidity” create too much opportunity for misuse and abuse of the policies and guidelines by fellow students or school representatives who wish to unduly influence developing students or even cause students harm. The overreaching assurance of secrecy this policy offers to these minors from legal, loving guardians creates intimate bonds with school officials that could be, and often is, exploited with malicious intent, and it shifts the responsibility of imparting moral values away from parents and into the school system. It also creates an intentionally secret platform from parents that could be used to indoctrinate gender confusion in students who would not otherwise have transgender inclinations. The charter of the school system should remain to educate children based on facts. This policy as written is contrary to the constitutionally protected religious freedoms which allow citizens to impart family values that are consistent with their protected religious belief systems.
- Page 6: terminology includes a misleading definition of “sex assignment” that is offensive. Recommend changing to “Identified Sex at birth.” Sex is identified at birth through objective observations of physical characteristics and as defined in the vast majority of the world’s modern languages. It is not in fact a label “typically assigned” on the noted basis, nor is it arbitrarily applied by the medical professionals who diligently and scientifically support the birth process.