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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. school district refuses grant from LGBTQ group

Board members opposed It Gets Better Project money

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E.C. Glass High School (Facebook photo)

At its regular board meeting last week, the Lynchburg City School Board voted 7-2 against accepting a grant from the It Gets Better Project. The Lynchburg News and Advance reported that the $10,000 grant was earmarked to develop a safe-space or “quiet room.”

The E.C. Glass High School Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) club was awarded the grant back in August as part of the nonprofit’s “50 States 50 Grants 5,000 Voices” program, an “initiative to fund projects that support and uplift LGBTQ+ identity in schools across the U.S. and Canada.”

In an interview with WSET, Brittany Harris, co-president of the GSA Club, E.C. Glass was the first school in Virginia to be awarded the money from the grant.

“We worked so hard to get this,” Harris said. “We submitted videos and testimonials from our students and how they have conquered so much; it was so surreal to be awarded the grant.”

During the Oct. 24 school board work session meeting, Board Chair Atul Gupta and Lynchburg City Schools Supt. Crystal Edwards told E.C. Glass principal Daniel Rule to provide more information on it and answer questions about the grant. This was also requested of the student GSA officers.

“Many schools within LCS already have such rooms and they have been shown to promote student self-regulation and are correlated to better student outcomes,” Rule told the board at that meeting.

“The students selected this project due to the high rate of bullying that the LGBTQIA+ community experiences, but the entire school would be welcomed and encouraged to use the room. The budget for the room includes flexible seating, interactive sensory devices, non-intrusive lighting and white noise machines,” Rule added.

During the Nov. 14 meeting the Lynchburg News and Advance reported that five E.C. Glass students and GSA club members told the board why they applied for the grant and why they picked the projects it’s intended to fund.

“Many students, including myself, struggle with mental health. School can be overwhelming just by itself, but a lot has happened in the last three or four years, what with the uncertainty of COVID along with the many lockdowns and how those have affected students,” junior Lindley Crosby said.

“Students have skipped school because they don’t feel safe or they don’t feel supported and these classrooms can be disruptive and chaotic and sometimes it can be too much. We want to provide this safe room so they have somewhere to go and breathe for a second.”

There were points that the meeting became contentious, a grandparent and guardian of an E.C. Glass student, Greg Barry, spoke in opposition to the grant.

“Let me be very clear, the LBGTQ agenda in schools is about indoctrination and grooming our children into an evil and wicked lifestyle, all while circumventing the rights and responsibilities of parents,” he said.

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TikTok video of Va. father at school board meeting goes viral

Cody Conner’s child is transgender

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Cody Conner, a father of three kids, gave a passionate speech to the Virginia Beach City Public Schools' board meeting supporting LGBTQ kids. (Photo courtesy of Cody Conner's Facebook page)

Cody Conner, a father of three kids, gave a passionate speech supporting LGBTQ kids during the Virginia Beach City Public Schools’ board meeting last month that was uploaded as a TikTok video that has since gone viral. 

Conner excoriated the board for considering implementation of Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s anti-transgender school policies. 

“You are never going to find a right way to do the wrong thing and Gov. Youngkin’s policies are wrong,” Conner told the board.

“Never in history have the good guys been the segregationist group pushing to legislate identity,” he said. “Never in history have the good guys been closely connected with and supported by hate groups like the Proud Boys. And the good guys don’t put Hitler quotes for inspiration on the front of their newsletters. News flash: They’re the bad guys. They’re the bad guys supporting bad policy. And if you support the same bad policy, guess what? You’re one of the bad guys too.”

“When you look around and see only the wrong people supporting what you’re doing, you’re doing the wrong thing. Now you’ve heard some speakers come up here and say how they love these kids but won’t accept them. I’m here to tell you that if your love makes somebody not want to be alive, it’s not love. That’s not love.

Some of you are going to get up here and say ‘it’s the law.’ Well, I remind you that slavery and segregation used to be the law here in Virginia.

I just knew I couldn’t standby and do nothing, just let it happen and hope everything worked out ok and I also wanted to make sure my kid knew that I would stand up for them,” Conner explains as he begins to tear up. “My big job as a parent is not to tell my children who they are, it’s not to make the decisions for them, it’s not to live their life or decide what their life is going to be, but to show them the best way I know how to walk through this world.”

According to PRIDE journalist Ariel Messman-Rucker, Conner moved his family to Virginia Beach right before Youngkin’s policies passed and he worries about the future of his 13-year-old transgender daughter who is now in the 8th grade. The family moved from rural Virginia to Virginia Beach so that their kid, who came out as trans a year ago, would be in a school system that would be supportive, but that all changed because of Youngkin.

The 42-year-old father told PRIDE he’s a quiet person and might not have made the choice to speak up if not for his kids. 

Virginia’s Department of Education at the direction of the governor has set out “model policies” for public schools that require students to use the bathroom and sports team that matches their sex at birth. 

The policies require written instruction from parents for a student to use names or gender pronouns that differ from the official record, meaning that teacher can deadname students — refer to them by their prior name — if paperwork isn’t filled out by the parents and it requires the school to inform parents if a student is questioning their identity, according to WVEC.

LGBTQ rights activists, including Equality Virginia, have stated these policies will be especially detrimental to LGBTQ students who come from conservative non-affirming homes.

The Virginia Beach School Board in a 9-1 vote approved an updated policy for trans and nonbinary students.

The new policy will require teachers to use pronouns and names that are on official record with exceptions for nicknames commonly associated with the student’s legal name. If a student requests anything else, teachers will be required to report it to the parents. Students must also use bathrooms and participate in sports teams that correspond to their assigned sex. 

@beezay22 #CapCut #virginia #virginiabeach #schoolboard #schoolboardmeetings #lgbtqiaplus #transrightsarehumanrights #protecttranskids #stoptransgenocide #fyp ♬ original sound – BeezayDad

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Va. says Loudoun County photographer can refuse to shoot same sex weddings

Bob Updegrove challenged 2020 nondiscrimination law

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(Bigstock photo)

Virginia last week said a Loudoun County photographer who filed a federal lawsuit against the state’s nondiscrimination law can refuse to photograph same-sex weddings.

Bob Updegrove in 2020 filed a federal lawsuit that challenged the Virginia Values Act, which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

The Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBTQ legal group who represents Updegrove, on its website said the law that took effect on July 1, 2020, “forces him to use his artistic talents to photograph same-sex weddings if he photographs weddings between one man and one woman.” The Alliance Defending Freedom further notes the Virginia Values Act “violates foundational rights set forth in the U.S. Constitution, including the First Amendment’s Free Speech and Free Exercise clauses.”

A Nov. 3 filing with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond notes the state will not “force” Updegrove “to offer or provide photography celebrating same-sex weddings.” It also refers to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 303 Creative ruling in favor of Lorie Smith, a Colorado graphic artist who refused to make wedding websites for same-sex couples, even though the state’s nondiscrimination law bans discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The Alliance Defending Freedom represented Smith in her case.

Republican Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares was among the defendants named in his Nov. 3 filing with the 4th Circuit.

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