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Hanover County schools adopt anti-transgender bathroom policy

Anti-LGBTQ Alliance Defending Freedom spearheaded rule

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Hanover Schools parents and allies of transgender students (Photo courtesy of the ACLU of Virginia)

In a closed door session the Hanover County School Board voted 5-2 to approve a policy that requires transgender students to submit a request to use school bathrooms that align with their gender identity and gives the school board the authority to approve or deny those requests.

In the policy approved Tuesday night, school staff and administrators can request a meeting with the student and their parents/guardians, and “will receive all relevant information, which may include:”

  • a statement from the student that, among other things, specifies their gender identity and how they have consistently, persistently and insistently expressed that identity
  • signed statements from the student’s personal physician, therapist or licensed counselor verifying that the student has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and/or that the student consistently and authentically expresses a binary gender identity
  • statements from the student’s parent or guardian
  • student disciplinary or criminal records
  • information related to the privacy and safety of other students
  • any other relevant information, including documents from other interested parties

The school board voted 4-3 last March to allow the Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBTQ+ legal firm listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, to offer a free legal review of the school district’s policy regarding equal educational opportunities.

At the time then-board chair Ola Hawkins provided the following statement:

“The school board voted last night to engage Alliance Defending Freedom for legal review of Policy 7-1.2 at no cost to HCPS. On behalf of the school board, I do not have anything further to add to this other than what was discussed and decided upon.”

According to current board chair John F. Axselle, III, the policy was an effort between the board, its attorney and counsel from the Alliance Defending Freedom. 

Virginia lawmakers passed a state law in 2020 requiring all 133 of the state’s school districts to adopt policies consistent with or more comprehensive than the Virginia Department Of Education’s model policies before September 2021. In November 2021, the Hanover County School Board struck down a measure that would have made bathrooms more accessible to trans students but did approve minor changes favoring trans kids.

In a 4-3 vote not to move forward, the board shot down a measure that would allow trans students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity, but did approve policy revisions that will allow for school officials to “use the name and gender consistent with the student’s gender identity,” upon request of the student and parent.

That decision led the ACLU of Virginia to file a lawsuit against the board on behalf of five parents of trans students.

Hanover Schools attorney Lisa Seward said a U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board — in which Gavin Grimm, a trans man, sued the Gloucester County School Board after he was barred from using the boys restroom — would protect the current policy. 

The appeals court ruled that not letting Grimm use the correct restroom was unconstitutional and violated his rights under Title IX. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case earlier this year, leaving in place that ruling. 

Earlier this month a coalition of the commonwealth’s leading advocacy organizations for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer equality responded to Hanover County School Board’s Policy 7-1.7 Restroom and Locker Room policy, which was approved Tuesday.

“This is not just about bathrooms or locker rooms. It’s about the right of transgender students to exist in public spaces without having to justify or explain themselves,” said ACLU of Virginia Policy and Legislative Counsel Breanna Diaz. “Yet, the Hanover County School Board’s proposed policy seeks to do just that by imposing an invasive policy that will deter youth from accessing school facilities. The school board must listen to Hanover families and oppose the proposed policy and immediately adopt a bathroom and locker room policy consistent with the Virginia Department of Education’s model policies.”

“The rights of transgender and non-binary students in Hanover County are not up for debate,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director Narissa S. Rahaman. “The Hanover County School Board’s unnecessary and discriminatory policy will lead to more harm for transgender and non-binary students in Hanover public schools.”

“The Hanover County NAACP continues to advocate for the full rights of all Hanover students and teachers. Hanover has exhibited a pattern of refusing to be an inclusive community,” said Hanover County NAACP President Pat Hunter-Jordan. “In the 1950’s schools were closed rather than following the law to integrate. Rather than renaming schools to avoid further harm to students of color, we had to sue them for our rights. And yet, here we are again. Rather than allow our transgender student population their full rights, Hanover schools are wasting taxpayer money, once again in the court system. We will continue to advocate until justice is served and until inclusivity and equity are a normal part of Hanover culture and tradition.”

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Virginia

Va. lawmaker introduces bill to ban trans athletes from school sports teams

State Del. Karen Greenhalgh introduced HB 1387 on Tuesday

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Virginia state Del. Karen Greenhalgh (R-Virginia Beach) (Screen capture via YouTube)

A Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would ban transgender athletes from school sports teams that correspond with their gender identity.

State Del. Karen Greenhalgh (R-Virginia Beach) introduced House Bill 1387 on Tuesday

An HB 1387 summary notes it would require “each interscholastic, intercollegiate, intramural or club athletic team or sport sponsored by a public elementary or secondary school or by a public institution of higher education to be expressly designated as one of the following based on biological sex: (i) males, men or boys; (ii) females, women or girls; or (iii) coed or mixed if participation on such team or sport is open to both (a) males, men or boys and (b) females, women or girls.” 

“The bill requires identification of the student’s biological sex on an athletics eligibility form signed by a licensed physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant to be submitted by any such student who desires to try out for or participate in an interscholastic, intercollegiate, intramural or club athletic team or sport. The bill prohibits any such team or sport that is expressly designated for females, women or girls from being open to students whose biological sex is male,” reads the summary. “The bill further prohibits any interscholastic, intercollegiate, intramural or club athletic team or sport sponsored by a public elementary or secondary school or a public institution of higher education from competing against any interscholastic, intercollegiate, intramural or club athletic team or sport sponsored by a private elementary or secondary school or private institution of higher education unless such private school or institution complies with the applicable provisions of the bill.”

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin is among those who have said they do not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Youngkin in September announced his plans to revise guidelines designed to protect trans and nonbinary students that his predecessor, Democrat Ralph Northam, signed into law in 2020. The Virginia Department of Education has announced the proposed revisions will not take effect until at least Nov. 26.

The Virginia General Assembly’s 2023 legislative session is scheduled to begin on Jan. 11.

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Virginia

Spanberger defeats Vega in Va.

Democratic congresswoman won with 51.92 percent of vote

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U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) (Photo public domain)

Democratic Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger on Tuesday defeated Republican Yesli Vega in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District.

Spanberger was ahead of Vega by a 51.92-47.85 percent margin with 214 of 226 precincts reporting.

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Virginia

Wexton wins re-election in Va.

Democrat fended off challenge from Republican Hung Cao

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Virginia Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Virginia Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton on Tuesday defeated Republican challenger Hung Cao.

Wexton, a former Virginia state senator who has represented the state’s 10th Congressional District since 2019, was ahead of Cao by a 52.39-47.44 percent margin with 202 of 209 precincts reporting.

Wexton said Cao called her to congratulate her.

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