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Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
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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  11:56 pm
Commenter: Lydia X. Z. Brown

Strongly support creating a better future for trans students
 

I am a nonbinary trans person, as well as an attorney and advocate, who lived for a time in Virginia and still works in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area. I wish that policies like these had existed when I was a student, because it would have made it more possible for me to feel safe and supported. It also would have made it more possible for many of my friends - some of whom did not come out as trans until well into their twenties, thirties, or even forties - to feel safe and supported. I am particularly hopeful for trans students of color and trans students with disabilities, who face compounded marginalization, stigma, and discrimination. 

I am especially encouraged by the model policy's careful attention to the emotional and psychological needs of transgender students around privacy (including from families), respectful identification, nondiscriminatory policies, and protection from bullying. Because so many transgender youth do not have supportive or affirming families, it's even more important for schools to protect their privacy, respect their chosen names and pronouns (if different from those given at birth), and create a welcoming environment. 

This policy is not perfect, but it is an important and valuable start to creating a more equitable environment in schools. I grew up in a deeply conservative Christian church where many people and leadership believed that it is sinful to assert an LGBTQ identity, including a transgender one. I understand that there are many people who live in Virginia who share the beliefs of people in my parents' church, and who therefore feel uncomfortable (at best) with the proposed policy's adoption. While I wish this were different, respectfully, I submit that their feelings do not matter when the lives, health, and safety of vulnerable students are at stake. This policy does not force students or parents who adhere to such belief systems to adopt new belief systems; it only requires school officials to foster an environment where no matter what someone's gender is, they will be treated respectfully, and hopefully, kindly. One need not "agree" with my gender for it to be real, nor for me to deserve to be treated respectfully. 

I can only hope that this model policy comes into full force and effect, so that trans students in Virginia might experience even at least a slight improvement in their school climate. They deserve no less.

CommentID: 97179