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New Va. guidelines stipulates parental input on transgender kids

State Department of Education released them on Friday

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(Bigstock photo)

Virginia’s Department of Education released its new guidelines Friday that require school administrators, faculty and staff receive written permission from parents regarding embracing or recognizing a transgender student’s gender identity.

With the release, the Department of Education’s Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools (the “2021 Model Policies,”) adopted on March 4, 2021, was effectively repealed and replaced. The emphasis in Friday’s document was centered on “parental rights.” The new set of guidelines also took aim at the 2021 guidance noting:

The 2021 Model Policies promoted a specific viewpoint aimed at achieving cultural and
social transformation in schools. The 2021 Model Policies also disregarded the rights of parents and ignored other legal and constitutional principles that significantly impact how schools educate students, including transgender students. With the publication of these 2022 Model Policies on the Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools (the “2022 Model Policies,”) the department hereby withdraws the 2021 Model Policies, which shall have no further force and effect
.”

The language reflects a campaign promise by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin to respect parental rights in public education. LGBTQ advocates however, expressed alarm over the section reading:

The phrase ‘transgender student’ shall mean a public school student whose parent has requested in writing, due to their child’s persistent and sincere belief that his or her gender differs with his or her sex, that their child be so identified while at school,” the guidelines read.

Parents are in the best position to work with their children … to determine (a) what names, nicknames, and/or pronouns, if any, shall be used for their child by teachers and school staff while their child is at school, (b) whether their child engages in any counseling or social transition at school that encourages a gender that differs from their child’s sex, or (c) whether their child expresses a gender that differs with their child’s sex while at school,” the policy continues.”

A trans activist who has children enrolled in the Fairfax County School District, the state’s largest school system and who asked to not be identified, told the Washington Blade that in effect, a trans youth who is not openly out to family effectively would be forcibly outed which would cause serious harm in most cases.

The other aspect the activist noted that the guidelines effectively require school staff and faculty to misgender trans students.

Excepts:

[School Division] personnel shall refer to each student using only (i) the name that appears in the student’s official record, or (ii) if the student prefers, using any nickname commonly associated with the name that appears in the student’s official record.

[School Division] personnel shall refer to each student using only the pronouns appropriate to the sex appearing in the student’s official record – that is, male pronouns for a student whose legal sex is male, and female pronouns for a student whose legal sex is female.

Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraphs (2) and (3) of this section, [School Division] personnel shall refer to a student by a name other than one in the student’s official record, or by pronouns other than those appropriate to the sex appearing in the student’s official record, only if an eligible student or a student’s parent has instructed [School Division] in writing that such other name or other pronouns be used because of the student’s persistent and sincere
belief that the student’s gender differs from his or her sex.

Any written instruction from a parent or eligible student under paragraph (4) of this section shall be memorialized in the student’s official record and subject to the same retention, disclosure, and confidentiality requirements as the official record itself. The legal name and sex of a student shall not be changed, even upon the written instruction of a parent or eligible student.

Youngkin’s critics continue to accuse him of waging war on the LGBTQ community, focused especially on trans youth.

At the beginning of September at a rally in Annandale; Youngkin called for schools to out trans and gender nonconforming students to their parents and guardians, prompting a rebuke from GLSEN. 

GLSEN Executive Director Melanie Willingham-Jaggers condemned the governor’s comments in an exclusive emailed statement to the Blade, writing: “It’s devastating to see politically motivated attempts to break trust between students and educators and to force educators to violate students’ privacy by outing them to guardians.” 

They added, “This kind of hostile school climate puts trans youth at greater risk of harassment, mental health challenges or discrimination. Transgender and nonbinary students need respect and autonomy, not additional scrutiny and policing of their gender identity in school.”g

“What’s their name? What pronoun will they use? How are they going to express their gender? This is a decision that bureaucrats in Fairfax County believe that they should be able to make without telling parents,” Youngkin said. 

Protecting students’ privacy is a core element of “A Guide for Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students,” published by GLSEN and the American Civil Liberties Union. 

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

The other issue within the new set of guidelines the activist told the Blade, is that the language almost nullifies the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of then-high school student Gavin Grimm who fought against his school policy on use of school restrooms and changing rooms.

The 4th Circuit found that the Gloucester County School District’s policies that prohibited students from using bathrooms and locker rooms that did not correspond with their “biological gender” and denied them transcripts that correspond to their gender identity was unconstitutional.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June 2021 declined to hear the case upholding the 4th Circuit ruling.

Additionally reporting by Christopher Kane and Michael K. Lavers

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Virginia

Karl Frisch to run for Va. House of Delegates

Fairfax County School Board member hopes to succeed Mark Keam

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Karl Frisch (Photo courtesy of Karl Frisch)

Fairfax County School Board member Karl Frisch on Tuesday announced he is running for the Virginia House of Delegates.

Frisch made the announcement after state Del. Mark Keam (D-Fairfax County) announced he will resign in order to accept a post within the Biden administration. 

Frisch has represented the Providence District on the Fairfax County School Board since 2019. He is the first openly LGBTQ person elected to public office in the county.

“Mark Keam has represented us well for more than a decade,” said Frisch in his campaign announcement. “We have much to be grateful for in his legacy of leadership and service to our community.”

“To create a future where no Virginian is left behind, we need a progressive fighter in Richmond with a record of results we can count on,” added Frisch. “We need someone who will stand up to Gov. Youngkin and the far-right — someone who will work every day to protect our world-class public schools, defend reproductive freedom, build an economy that works for everyone, prevent gun violence, heal our planet, and preserve our democracy.”

It is not yet clear when a special election to fill Keam’s seat will take place.

Frisch would represent the 35th District in the House of Delegates if he were to win. 

State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) and state Del. Mark Sickles are gay, while state Del. Dawn Adams (D-Richmond) and Danica Roem (D-Manassas) are lesbian and transgender respectively. State Del. Kelly Convirs-Fowler (D-Virginia Beach) in June came out as bisexual.

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Virginia

Youngkin calls for schools to out transgender students

Governor made comments during ‘Parents Matter’ rally in Annandale

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

During a “Parents Matter” rally on Wednesday, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin called for schools to out transgender and gender nonconforming students to their parents and guardians, prompting a rebuke from GLSEN. 

GLSEN Executive Director Melanie Willingham-Jaggers condemned the covernor’s comments in an exclusive emailed statement to the Washington Blade, writing: “It’s devastating to see politically motivated attempts to break trust between students and educators and to force educators to violate students’ privacy by outing them to guardians.” 

They added, “This kind of hostile school climate puts trans youth at greater risk of harassment, mental health challenges or discrimination. Transgender and nonbinary students need respect and autonomy, not additional scrutiny and policing of their gender identity in school.”

Youngkin’s comments on the subject addressed Fairfax County Public Schools’ Regulation 2603, which stipulates that students may choose to use pronouns and restrooms/facilities that correspond with their gender identity and transition their gender without parental permission. 

“They think that parents have no right to know what your child is discussing with their teacher or their counselor, particularly when some of the most important topics, most important topics that a child may want to discuss are being determined,” the governor said during the back-to-school event Wednesday. 

“What’s their name? What pronoun will they use? How are they going to express their gender? This is a decision that bureaucrats in Fairfax County believe that they should be able to make without telling parents,” Youngkin said. 

Protecting students’ privacy is a core element of “A Guide for Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students,” published by GLSEN and the ACLU. 

The document tells students their schools should act to prevent harassment and bullying, facilitate their access to their preferred restrooms and facilities, and protect their privacy “by not revealing that you are transgender to others unless you have given them permission to do so,” adding, “your school should not be outing you to anyone.” 

“It’s time that Gov. Youngkin stops using trans students’ lives to gain political points at the expense of their safety and well-being,” said Equality Virginia in a statement. “Transgender and nonbinary students are not going anywhere, and we need to treat them with the respect and care that they deserve. The governor’s administration needs to hear and really listen to what transgender youth in our schools have to say about their experiences, and ensure that there are policies in place to protect them. By instead making open threats to their rights, the administration is failing transgender students in Virginia and contributing to hostile school environments for our youth.”

Youngkin’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the apparent conflict between the tenets of this guidance and the governor’s comments on Wednesday.

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Virginia

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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