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Equality Virginia to track implementation of trans, nonbinary student protections

State Department of Education issued guidelines in 2020

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(Bigstock photo)

Equality Virginia on Thursday announced it will track whether school boards have implemented the Virginia Department of Education’s guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.

Equality Virginia Executive Director Narissa S. Rahaman in a press release notes “almost half of Virginia’s K-12 students attend schools in divisions that have fully adopted VDOE’s model policies for the treatment of transgender students” since their issuance in 2020. 

“These policies, developed in accordance with evidence-based best practices, give teachers and administrators critical tools to create safe, inclusive and learning environments for all students,” said Rahaman. “School boards in every corner of our commonwealth have a unique and urgent opportunity to protect transgender students by adopting the model policies.”

Equality Virginia in its press release further noted the School Board Policy and Meeting Tracker will “provide parents, advocates and students information on local school board meetings, potential agenda items and opportunity for public comment, and whether the school district has adopted” the guidelines.

Thursday’s announcement coincides with continued challenges to the guidelines and ongoing efforts to curtail the rights of trans and nonbinary students in Virginia.

Virginia lawmakers earlier this year tabled two bills that would have eliminated the requirement for school districts to implement the guidelines.

The Hanover County School Board last month approved a policy that requires trans students to request permission to use school bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. GLSEN earlier this month sharply criticized Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin after he called for schools to out trans and gender nonconforming students to their parents.

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Virginia

Youngkin appoints three new Va. LGBTQ+ Advisory Board members

Casey Flores resigned last month after offensive tweets surfaced

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Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Monday announced the appointment of three people to the Virginia LGBTQ+ Advisory Board.

Youngkin’s office in a press release noted Log Cabin Republicans of Hampton Roads President Phil Kazmierczak, Preston Main of Hanover County and Thomas N. Turner of Suffolk City have been named to the board.

Virginia Log Cabin Republicans President Casey Flores last month resigned from the board before his tenure began. The resignation came amid growing controversy over a series of anti-LGBTQ and misogynist comments he made against Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), among others.

“Casey Flores withdrew and resigned from the board as he is accepting a professional opportunity outside of the commonwealth,” Youngkin’s spokesperson told the Blade on Tuesday. 

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Va. advocacy groups urge state Supreme Court to uphold teacher firing

Peter Vlaming fired over refusal to use student’s correct pronouns

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Virginia Supreme Court (Photo by sainaniritu/Bigstock)

Equality Virginia and a number of other advocacy groups on Wednesday asked the Virginia Supreme Court to uphold the West Point School Board’s decision to fire a teacher who refused to refer to a student by pronouns that corresponded with their gender identity.

The West Point School Board in 2018 fired French teacher Peter Vlaming after he refused to use male pronouns when referring to a student who was transitioning from female to male.

The anti-LGBTQ Alliance Defending Freedom represents Vlaming.

The King William County Circuit Court dismissed Vlaming’s case. The Virginia Supreme Court in March agreed to consider it.

“Transgender and nonbinary students, when compared to their cisgender peers, face physical abuse, bullying, and extreme emotional harm at higher rates, which impact their well-being and education,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director Narissa S. Rahaman in a press release that announced the filing of the amicus brief to the Supreme Court. “The West Point School Board’s antidiscrimination and anti-harassment policies aim to counteract and prevent those harms. We know that transgender students thrive when they are supported by an inclusive school environment, which includes using their correct pronouns.”

Equality Loudoun, FCPS (Fairfax County Public Schools) Pride and GLSEN are among the other advocacy groups that signed the amicus brief. Fairfax County School Board member Karl Frisch, Arlington School Board Chair Barbara Kanninen, Arlington School Board member David Priddy, Falls Church City School Board Chair Laura Downs, Falls Church City School Board members David Ortiz and Lori Silverman and Stafford County School Board member Elizabeth Warner are also signatories.

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Va. school board sued over transgender student policies

Alliance Defending Freedom filed suit against Harrisonburg schools

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(Photo courtesy of Harrisonburg City Public Schools/Facebook)

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal advocacy group based in Scottsdale, Ariz., listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-LGBTQ hate group for its lies and duplicitous propaganda about LGBTQ people has sued a Virginia school board over its transgender-inclusive policies.

The ADF, representing a group of six parents and teachers sued Harrisonburg City Public Schools. The lawsuit, filed in Rockingham County Circuit Court, alleges the policy violates their First Amendment rights to freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

WHSV reported the policy in question requires teachers to ask students what their preferred names and pronouns are and to utilize those from that point forward.

If a student’s preferred name and pronoun differ from their biological sex at birth, the information is shared with a guidance counselor who will facilitate a conversation on gender identity with the student. However, teachers are not permitted to notify a student’s parents of the request.

The policy was adopted last August after the Virginia Department of Education issued a model policy on the treatment of trans students and required all school divisions in the commonwealth to adopt similar policies.

The lawsuit claims that the HCPS policy requirements go beyond what is set in stone by the Department of Education.

Amanda Reiman Johnson, a lawyer and legal analyst at AC Reiman Law Firm in Culpeper, spoke to WHSV offering her perspectives on the suit and its implications.

“The Virginia Supreme Court has routinely upheld that parents should have the ultimate say in dictating how their child is brought up whether that is regarding their education or their own religious beliefs,” she said.

“One of the key arguments in this entire case hinges on something that we saw earlier this year and in years prior regarding the COVID vaccine and what exactly does a sincere religious belief mean?” she added.

“Not just a closely held religious belief but a sincere religious belief. Then ultimately it might be able to tie into their defense that ‘hey this violates our First Amendment against our freedom of religion and our freedom of speech,” said Johnson.

“The defendants are saying listen we have to adhere to these state rules that provide some type of guidance when it comes to adhering to what the students want to be called,” said Reiman-Johnson.

Harrisonburg City Public Schools released the statement below in regard to the lawsuit.

“Our School Board has general nondiscrimination policies within its Policy Manual and maintains a strong commitment to its inclusivity statement, all of which is available on our website. In specific student situations, the focus is always to foster a team approach that includes and supports the unique needs of the student and family on a case-by-case basis. HCPS also has systems in place to listen to and respond to employee concerns. We are dismayed that this complaint is coming to us in the form of a lawsuit in lieu of the collaborative approach we invite and take to address specific needs or concerns, an approach that we believe best serves the interests of our students, staff, and families.”

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