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Activists rally at Fairfax County School Board meeting

FCPS governing body unanimously passes LGBTQ History Month recognition

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Students and community activists gather for a rally outside Luther Jackson Middle School on Thursday, Oct. 6. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A group of more than 200 activists gathered outside of Luther Jackson Middle School in Vienna on Thursday to object to the new “model policies” for transgender students proposed by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration.

Many activists have voiced support for the policies enacted by the General Assembly and former Gov. Ralph Northam, which were intended to protect LGBTQ students in general, and trans and gender nonconforming students in particular. However, the Youngkin administration released revisions on Sept. 16 that differ substantially from the policies passed into law in 2020.

The activists oppose the revised “model policies” for including the mandate that students use school facilities for the sex they were assigned at birth and the restriction of students to be able to change their names and pronouns without parental permission. Further, the policies direct teachers and staff not to conceal a student’s gender identity from parents, even when a student asks to keep that information private.

Activists from the student-led Pride Liberation Project were joined by state Del. Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church), educators, students, concerned community members and activists from the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, Pride in FCPS and the Democratic Socialists of America ahead of the Fairfax County School Board meeting before it took place inside the middle school.

McLean High School senior Casey Calabia, a Pride Liberation Project organizer, spoke to the crowd.

“When I came here this afternoon, I made the active choice to forget the probability and statistics test I have because how can these classes mean anything to me when my rights are at risk, when my safety in a classroom is at risk,” said Calabia. “Education is not for parents, education is not for teachers, it is not for your next political agenda, education is for students.”

“It is to bring up the next generation to be competent, to be kind, to be loving and to feel safe where they deserve to be safe,” added Calabia. “How can my county do anything but make the necessary move for our education to keep us better? To keep us safe?”

“When it’s hard, when we face resistance, there are tons of people and thousands more that come to places like this to stand up for trans kids, to stand up for queer kids,” Calabia said. “I am proud that I get to honor a long-standing tradition of queerness, of being nonbinary, of being transgender. It is something I’m privileged to do every single day of my life. So it is here at FCPS that I’m grateful to everyone continuing to help defend my right to thrive. Every single one of my fellow students, teachers, staff and community members equally deserves their right to thrive.”

Fairfax County students were joined at the rally by parents like Laura Stokes.

“I’m a very proud parent of a trans nonbinary fourth grader in FCPS,” Stokes told the assembled activists.

“Whenever Youngkin says he’s about ‘respecting parents’ choice,’ I don’t feel like I’m reflected in that statement. What about parents like me?” Stokes asked. “I don’t see myself in that proposal. I don’t see myself in that policy.”

David Walrod of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers admonished the Youngkin administration.

“What we have seen from Glenn Youngkin and the Virginia Department of Education is unconscionable, reprehensible,” Walrod said.

“We’ve seen governors use students as political pawns before.” Walrod charged. “We’ve seen governors like Gregg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida create the most dehumanizing laws against LGBTQ students that they could think of. The Virginia legislature saw past the political games and they saw human beings, they saw students, they saw children.”

“The Northam administration supported these efforts and created policies meant to protect students, promote inclusion and equity and give students a chance to thrive,” Walrod continued. “Gov. Youngkin and Supt. Ballow on the other hand have shown us they don’t believe members of the LGBTQ+ community are worthy of protection. They’ve shown us that they support demonizing students to score political points.”

“I ask the school board to say ‘no’ to Glenn Youngkin,” Walrod said. “I ask the school board to say ‘no’ to Jillian Ballow and I ask the Fairfax County School Board to say ‘yes’ to giving students the ability to be themselves.”

Following the rally, activists filed into the Luther Jackson Middle School auditorium for the Fairfax County School Board’s public meeting.

Board Chair Rachna Sizemore Heizer began the meeting with a statement prepared by the board and acknowledged the large crowd of LGBTQ student activists in attendance.

“The Fairfax County School Board understands that our LGBTQIA+ students, staff, and families are worried about the impact of Gov. Youngkin’s proposed model policies for transgender and gender-expansive students,” Heizer read into the public record. “Nearly one in five transgender and non-binary youth attempted suicide in the last year. LGBTQIA+ youth who found their school to be affirming reported lower rates of attempting suicide. It is necessary to ensure our school community is a place where all students can live without fear of prejudice, discrimination, harassment or violence.”

“Our policies and regulations will continue supporting our transgender and gender-expansive students, staff, and families. Fairfax County School Board Policy 1450 protects students, educators, and other staff from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” Heizer continued.

Heizer then listed the protections outlined in FCPS Regulation 2603 and reiterated the board’s commitment to the Viriginia Human Rights Act, Title IX and the “settled law of Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board,” requiring respect for students’ gender identity.

“Protecting, supporting and affirming our transgender and gender-expansive students is critical to achieving a safe and respectful learning environment for all students, and providing them with equal access to educational programs, services, and activities. The work to do so in a holistically inclusive way continues, but we know that, from this commitment, we will not waiver,” concluded Heizer.

The board later unanimously passed a resolution introduced by member Karl Frisch (Providence District) recognizing October as LGBTQ History Month in Fairfax County Public Schools.

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Virginia

Va. House committee advances two anti-transgender bills

Democrats in state Senate will likely kill measures

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Virginia House Education Committee on Friday approved two anti-transgender bills.

Committee members advanced state Del. Karen Greenhalgh (R-Virginia Beach)’s House Bill 1387, which would ban transgender athletes from school sports teams that correspond with their gender identity, and state Del. Dave LaRock (R-Loudoun County)’s House Bill 2432, which would require school personnel to out trans students to their parents.

A House subcommittee earlier this week approved the two bills.

Republicans control the House of Delegates by a 51-47 margin. Democrats have a 22-18 majority in the Virginia Senate.

The Senate Education Committee on Thursday killed six anti-trans bills. It is likely HB 1387 and HB 2432 will meet the same fate once they reach the state Senate.

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Virginia

Va. House subcommittees advance two anti-transgender bills

Senate Democrats have pledged to block any anti-LGBTQ measures

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Virginia Capitol Building (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Two anti-transgender bills advanced in the Virginia House of Delegates on Monday.

A House Education Subcommittee by a 5-3 margin voted to advance state Del. Dave LaRock (R-Loudoun County)’s House Bill 2432, which Equality Virginia notes “would require public school personnel to contact a student’s parent if they believe that the student’s self-identified gender does not align with their ‘biological sex.'” The House Higher Education Subcommittee by a 6-4 margin advanced state Del. Karen Greenhalgh (R-Virginia Beach)’s House Bill 1387, which would ban transgender athletes from school sports teams that correspond with their gender identity.

Both bills will now go before the full House Education Committee.

The House Early Childhood/Innovation Subcommittee last week voted unanimously to kill state Del. Jason Ballard (R-Giles County)’s House Bill 1434, which would have required trans students to obtain a court order to update their name in school records. The Senate Public Education Subcommittee on Jan. 26 also tabled three measures that would have banned trans athletes from school teams corresponding with their gender identity.

Republicans currently control the House of Delegates by a 51-47 margin. Democrats, who have a 22-18 majority in the state Senate, have said they will oppose any anti-LGBTQ measure that reaches their chamber.

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Virginia

Va. Senate subcommittee tables three anti-transgender bills

Measures would have banned trans athletes from school teams

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia Senate subcommittee on Thursday tabled three bills that would ban transgender athletes from school teams corresponding with their gender identity.

The Senate Education and Health Committee’s Public Education Committee tabled state Sen. John Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake)’s Senate Bill 911, state Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Louisa County)’s Senate Bill 1186 and state Sen. Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg)’s Senate Bill 962.

“We’re one step closer to these bills being gone for good,” said Equality Virginia in a tweet.

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